Delaware make massive comeback, overtake Mercer for Golfweek Fall Challenge title

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Before Delaware started the season opener on Tuesday, head coach Patty Post unearthed a pre-COVID memory. Playing in the Loyola Intercollegiate in February 2020, before the spring season closed in light of the pandemic, Delaware set a school record of 21 cents.

“I said this was probably the best course for you after this one,” Post said of resuming that round at True Blue Golf Club in Myrtle Beach on Tuesday. “It wasn’t a big speech, it didn’t bring everyone together.”

At the time, Mercer’s lead in the Golfweek Fall Challenge seemed insurmountable. The Bears had played the first 36 holes in 29 fewer and Delaware was behind by 17 shots.

Delaware’s four counters contributed three birdies on True Blue’s opening hole and the chase began. In the end, the Blue Hens lost 18 points in the final round as Mercer cooled down to play that round tied. This gave Delaware the victory in one hit at 30 cents.

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Scores: Golfweek Fall Challenge

“We all know at True Blue – the achievable holes are the top 15,” Post said. “Then 16, 17, and 18 will be where if there’s a fluctuation with a bogey or two, it’s going to be on those holes coming up.”

Post made sure to get level with the closing glove, and Delaware’s counters skated to No.16 with three pars and a bogey and posted four pars at No.17.

Players enter their own scores during the tournament, so the ranking was no secret.

“They see it,” Post said of his team’s run. “You don’t want them to, but they are.”

By the time Delaware’s No.1 player Roberto Nieves reached the 18e hole, the Blue Hens had a one-shot lead. The Delaware women’s team had crossed the street from the Caledonia Golf Club, where they competed in the Women’s Division of the Fall Challenge, and had invaded the porch overlooking the True Blue’s 18e green to see the finish.

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Nieves sailed his approach shot past a front hole location and over a ridge in the middle of the green, leaving himself a 15-foot comebacker. Despite three putts, the Delaware players erupted in the team’s one-stroke victory.

The No.18 was ultimately decisive, with Delaware playing the hole in 1 and Mercer 6 there.

Post has been at the helm of the Blue Hens for five years and the Golfweek Fall Challenge marked the team’s first victory during his tenure. It was the first period of victory since 2016.

“I think it just gives them confidence in their abilities,” she said.

Mercer’s head coach Jason Payne, who returned this season after coaching the Bears from 2003 to 2007 (his first head coaching position), has a motto that matches how the final nine holes of Tuesday took place.

Payne is one of the brains behind the Any Given Tuesday social media platform in college golf. The idea that anything can happen any Tuesday (the day college golf tournaments usually end) has certainly played out at True Blue.

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“It was good golf, it was under pressure all the way,” Payne said. “Again, I can’t say enough about how well Delaware played.”

Mercer had spent much of the past few weeks qualifying in Macon, Ga. In 100-degree heat. After that, taking the start at True Blue, an accessible course with generous fairways, presented a scoring opportunity that Payne’s men took advantage of.

“While no one is happy to be second in a tournament and give up the lead we had, it will leave you a little hungry,” said Payne.

The season is young.

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