Going up against three of the nation’s Top 25 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I golf programs in the country, the 39th ranked University of Houston Cougars grabbed the lead on Saturday in the second round and held on to that lead yesterday to win the White Sands University of Houston Invitational by seven strokes at the Ocean Club Golf Course, Paradise Island.
The Cougars shot 276 in yesterday’s round to finish with a final score of 31-under par 833 over the three rounds.
“We had just a great team effort. If you look at our scores each day, all of our players helped considerably. We posted three really good rounds. I think we were in second each day. Just being consistent like that across the board is what allowed us to be on top,” Jonathan Dismuke said.
Rounding out the top three teams in the tournament were the Florida State University Seminoles, who finished second, and finishing third was the University of Arkansas Razorbacks.
The Seminoles finished the tournament with a final score of 24-under par 840. The Razorbacks finished 22-under par 842.
“We got an awesome field, had the number one and the number two ranked teams in the country here. For us to come in and beat a couple other top 25 teams, was really nice week for us,” Dismuke added.
In the individual competition, Wake Forest Demon Deacons’ Parker Gillam shot a 60, 12-under par in the first round on Friday to hold on to a three-stroke victory to win 17-under par. That 60 was a school record and it also broke the course record set by Justin Rose, 9-under par 63. Overall, the junior’s final score over the three rounds was 17-under par 199.
“It feels great, I couldn’t be more happy with myself. I haven’t really ever played this well in my life before. I’ve had good rounds, I’ve had good tournaments but this tournament was extra special to me. The 60 just started it all and then I didn’t have any expectations. In the second round and I didn’t make anything which I expected to happen. Then today I was just very solid, just kind of cruised right through it, didn’t really make any mistakes. I was really happy. I feel great. I really hope I can come back and play again,” Gillam said.
In the first round, Gillam shot eagles on holes 16 and 17. He also shot nine birdies – holes 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 11, 13 and 14. Had he not bogeyed hole 18, he would have finished with a score of 13-under par 59.
“Honestly if you ask me how I did it, I can’t really explain how it happened. It’s just that everything went well at the same time. I was hitting the ball very nicely,” Gillam stated. “The two greens I missed, I had to chip. I chipped in both times and then I was just making a ton of putts. I gave myself a bunch of looks. I rarely had a putt outside of 20 feet. I only missed like two or three fifteen footers from early that day. Any other fifteen footer I had, I was going to make. I just got in the zone and everything worked, everything clicked at the same time. The driver is my favorite club, probably the club I hit the best. I got myself in the right positions and just kept doing that every single hole and it worked out.”
Second place in the individual round was won by the University of Northern Illinois Huskies senior Jordan Less who finished the tournament with a score of 14-under par 202. The Cougars’ Luke Long, who was his team’s best golfer, finished 13-under par 203.
On Friday the Seminoles took the lead at the end of the day when they shot 13-under par 275 as a team. They held a one stroke lead on the Cougars in the first round. The number two ranked team Southern Methodist University Mustangs were in third place with a score of 10-under par 278.
On Saturday, Houston strung together a key round to shoot seven-under 281. They took a six stroke lead at the end of the round over the Seminoles who shot even-par 288. The Demon Deacons jumped into the podium picture when they shot six-under par 282 in that round.
On Sunday the Cougars coasted their way to hold on to win it all as the Demon Deacons dropped to fourth place.
“This is a great performance for us, we’ve got a good team,” Dismuke said. “We haven’t played as well as maybe we are capable of this fall, but this event was a really good testament to what we can do as a team and it will be very beneficial for us moving forward.”
Gillam has received a sponsor’s exemption into the Professional Golf Association (PGA) Tour Puerto Rico Open in February 2020 of next year. He was not even aware of it until one of his teammates told him about it.
“One of my teammates was telling me about that and I didn’t believe that at first until today. That’s great, I’m really happy to go out there and compete with the best.”
He had a tough round on Saturday when he shot two-over par 73 but that 12-under par provided him enough cushion to stay atop the two rounds.
Sunday he shot six-under par 66 to hold on to a three-stroke lead over Less who bested him in the third round to shoot seven-under par 65. Long and Less were tied after the first two rounds shooting 68 and 69, but Long shot six-under par six that was not enough to get him past Less.
Heading into the rest of the season, Gillam is excited and said that this tournament boosted his confidence with the greens.
“I’m so much enthused because I’ve been training with my putting. I put a new putter in my bag this week, I’ve had that putter for maybe a week. First tournament with it, I had some work done on it over the past week and that’s just really boost my confidence. I’ve always known that if I could putt, I could really put these scores together. I am a pretty good ball striker. I hit my fairways, I hit my greens. If I could just make some putts, it’d be great. So, it really boost my confidence with the greens.”
Eleven of the 14 teams shot under par. The entire Cougar team shot even par or lower. Long, the Cougars’ junior, hopes that this momentum carries over to the rest of the season.
“We’ve had some good finishes in the fall so far. We tied for first at one event, then lost in a playoff. We knew we could do it. Today and this week all the cards fell in the right spot. We had a lot of really good scores and just came together as a team to really win. Moving forward we know we can do it, so I think this will give us a lot of momentum going to the spring season,” Long said.
On Wednesday, October 30, the number two ranked team in the nation, the Texas Longhorns, won the women’s team competition with a final score of 36-under par 828. The Longhorns freshman Sophie Guo won the individual side of it, shooting 66, 67 and 66 over the three days. She finished with a final score of 17-under par 199.
The title sponsor for this the inaugural event was the Ministry of Tourism.