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No. 15 Virginia men’s golf victorious in final tournament of the season

The Cavaliers recorded 30 birdies in the final round to clinch a remarkable comeback at the GCG Collegiate Title

<p>A strong start from junior Paul Chang paved the way for Virginia to claim victory in Georgia Sunday.</p>

A strong start from junior Paul Chang paved the way for Virginia to claim victory in Georgia Sunday.

No. 15 Virginia bested a competitive field Sunday to win the Golf Club of Georgia (GCG) Collegiate Title, the final tournament of their fall season, bouncing back from a disappointing fourth-place finish at the Hamptons Intercollegiate earlier this month. The Cavaliers recorded 30 birdies in the final round to make up for an 11-shot difference, a feat that saw them cruise to victory.

The tournament began Friday with Virginia teeing off against a field that included No. 11 East Tennessee State, No. 12 Georgia Tech and No. 7 Washington. 

Junior Paul Chang shone in the first round, shooting a career-best 5-under 67. Chang shot an eagle on his first hole of the day and then went bogey-free the rest of the day to share the first-round lead. 

Chang’s performance, along with 2-under 70 scores from sophomore Ben James and senior George Duangmanee and a 1-under 71 posting from junior Deven Patel, contributed to a solid first-round performance from the Cavaliers. Virginia finished second in the first round, three shots behind East Tennessee State, with a team score of 9-under 278. 

Virginia struggled in the second round, shooting 4-over 292 and dropping back two spots on the leaderboard. Sophomore Bryan Lee had the best second round, shooting 2-under 70, but was the only Cavalier to shoot under par during the round.

Chang continued to lead the Cavalier squad in stroke play but had dropped to sixth place. East Tennessee State still led the field with a score of 17-under 559, 11 shots ahead of Virginia heading into the final round.

When the final round began on Sunday morning, Virginia put any struggles it may have had during the second round to rest. The Cavaliers shot 19-under 269, a tournament single-round record, to overtake the competition, finishing with a total score of 25-under 839. All five team members shot under par.

James led the Cavaliers in the final round, shooting a team-best 7-under 65 after opening the day with three consecutive birdies. He finished the tournament tied for fifth with a season-best score of 8-under 208 and the 13th top-ten finish of his career.

Chang finished strong with a 1-under 71, tying his career-best finish of 5-under 211, ending tied for ninth alongside Lee, who shot 4-under 68 in the final round. This was Chang’s second top-ten finish and his strongest showing yet in his first season with the team. It was Lee’s fourth career top-ten performance.

Patel and Duangmanee also had strong showings in the final round. Patel matched his single-round best performance, shooting 6-under 66 to move up to 18th place, while Duangmanee’s 2-under 70 closed out a solid performance.

The Cavaliers’ final round score was two strokes off the school record of 21-under. It was Coach Bowen Sargent’s 25th victory in his 20-year career at Virginia. 

Virginia’s impressive showing at the tournament solidified it as among the best teams in collegiate golf. Coming into the season ranked 13th, the Cavaliers prior to this tournament had fallen to No. 25. For a team with high aspirations following a successful 2023 spring season, Virginia needed a strong showing to solidify itself as a top team nationally, and it delivered.

Virginia opens its spring season Feb. 3 at the Thomas Sharkey Individual Collegiate. The squad will be striving to build off of its fall campaign and the 2023 spring season, in which it tied for third at the ACC Championships and reached match play in the NCAA Tournament for the first time.

There are plenty of signs that Virginia will continue to be successful in the spring, especially considering seven of the 14 teams in the GCG field currently hold top-30 rank. The strong showing this weekend is undoubtedly a high note the Cavaliers will carry with them as they begin to prepare for the spring.

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