Radford ends Lancer golf team’s best season ever
A historic season for Longwood the men’s golf team came to a close in the semifinals of the Big South Championship, as Radford pulled out a 3-1 match play victory over the Lancers at the Patriot at Grand Harbor.
Wednesday’s result put an end to Longwood’s program-best run, as they finished the three-day stroke play portion of the tournament in a tie for first, their best finish since joining the Big South Conference in the 2012-13 season. The youthful Lancers, featuring just one player with Big South Championship experience in returning senior Brandon Weaver, made their run with three sophomores and a true freshman in the lineup.
Their record-setting performance earned them a trip to the match play portion, as the top four teams in stroke play advance to a single-elimination match play showdown featuring all five members of each lineup facing off against each other. Brendan Dunphy picked up a win for Longwood while Brandon Weaver led through 16 in an unfinished match, but a pair of late one-hole wins by Nicholas Taliaferro and Hunter Duncan proved to be the difference, as the Highlanders also picked up a win from Bryce Corbett to close out Longwood, 3-2.
Despite the narrow defeat, the Lancers still finished a program-best third, improving on their previous best mark of sixth. Longwood also had three players finish in the top-10 individually in Dunphy, Weaver, and Nick Rakes, another program record.
“We were in it to the end,” Longwood head coach Kevin Fillman said. “I wouldn’t say it was good golf, but most of the matches proved to be very good and close. In the end, we gave Radford too many holes with, frankly, some poor play and didn’t take advantage of enough of the openings they gave us.
“It’s a tough way to finish, but we did so much the past few days to get here. We just need to keep working to make sure we get back to this point and be better the next time we are.”
Dunphy took the tee first for Longwood and dominated the entire way to get the Lancers on the board first. The sophomore birdied the opening hole 10th hole, as Longwood and Radford played the back nine first, to go one-up and never looked back, surging to a six-hole after nine holes. The Whitby, Ontario native inflated his lead to a match-high seven after wrapping around to the first hole, and ended up clinching the match by holding a five-hole lead through 15 holes.
Bryce Corbett and the Highlanders responded in the fifth pairing, as Corbett ran away from Longwood’s Christian Michael in the final three holes of their match to clinch the first Radford win. Leading by just one hole after nine holes and just two after 12, Corbett ripped off three straight wins to take a five stroke lead with three holes to play, clinching the win and tying the score at 1-1.
True freshman Nick Rakes, playing in the second pairing, was in a razor-thin battle with the Highlanders’ Taliaferro the entire round. After dropping the opening hole, Rakes quickly bounced back to win the second. Rakes fell behind by two holes on three separate occasions, but the resilient Evington native rallied to get back within one all three times. However, after tallying a birdie on the to get within one-down with four holes to play, the pairing halved the final four holes as Taliaferro scratched out a one-up win to give Radford a 2-1 lead.
Hunter Duncan, Radford’s ace who finished individual play tied for second with Weaver at seven-under, clinched the match for the Highlanders in a duel with Miles Parroco. Parroco gave Duncan everything he could handle, rallying back from a two-down deficit after the first nine holes to tie the match with four holes to play—the sophomore birdied the par-five fifth, setting up a pivotal showdown. After halving the next two holes, Duncan regained the lead on the penultimate hole, as the pair would halve the remaining par-four with a pair of bogey as Duncan escaped with a one-up victory.
Duncan’s win, the third for Radford which sealed the match, left Weaver and Hull’s match unfinished, though Weaver held a one-up advantage through 16 holes. Despite dropping the opening hole, Weaver rallied to lead by two after the first nine holes, maintaining a slim advantage until play was halted.
“I wish we could have extended Brandon’s career for another round,” added Fillman. “He’s meant so much to us, as well to me personally, for the past five years. What a run he had.”
Wednesday’s finish capped a standout, five-year career for Weaver, who will leave Longwood with a career scoring average of 73.15. This year’s T-2nd finish in the Big South Championship individual leaderboard tied the Longwood program best, as his 204 (-7) ties the lowest round to par in the championship as well. The Purcellville, Va. native has one career win to his name, the 2018 Manor Intercollegiate, and has placed in the top-10 eight times.
While Weaver will graduate with degrees in both environmental science and economics in May, the Lancers will return the other four members of their 2021 roster, as they will look to carry their momentum into the 2021-22 season.