Western Refining All-America Classic: Van Sickle closes strong

EL PASO, Texas (Nov. 25, 2008) -- Hole one at the El Paso Country Club was the epicenter of the collegiate golf world Tuesday afternoon. That's where -- on the sixth hole of a playoff against Oklahoma State's Trent Leon -- Marquette senior Mike Van Sickle sank a seven-foot birdie putt to complete a near-improbable comeback and win the 34th Annual Western Refining College All-America Golf Classic.

"He went out an proved that he may be the best in college golf," Marquette head coach Tim Grogan said of Van Sickle. "He's definitely been the best player this fall. It was remarkable."

Van Sickle shot an eight-under-par 63 at the par-71, 6842-yard course, a collegiate low and one stroke shy of the tournament record, to climb to the top spot on the leaderboard Tuesday with a three-round total of 207 (74-70-63). He was tied for 11th place at the start of today's final round, six strokes behind leader Corey Nagy of Charlotte.

"Today was probably my best golf day ever," said Van Sickle, whose individual record is 60 carded at Tom's Run Golf Course in his home state of Pennsylvania. "I kind of realized that to win would take a special round today. To come from behind like that, and to prevail in a six-hole playoff was amazing. On top of that, I was playing with 26 other All-Americans."

One of 10 players to be invited back to the event, labeled as one of the most prestigious in college golf, Van Sickle recorded four birdies and a pair of eagles to rally past some of the biggest names currently playing on the amateur circuit.

Van Sickle drained a 40-foot eagle putt on the par-5 hole nine and holed out with a 50-yard pitch on the par-4 hole 15.

"I couldn't even see the hole," he said of his shot on 15. "Once I holed out for eagle, I thought I must be getting close to the leader."

Although the invite-only tournament is not a team event, it's the fourth victory for Van Sickle in six collegiate starts this fall and his school-record 10th win as a Golden Eagle. It's the third victory this season that he's had to come from behind to win. He finished 17th at last year's event. Former champions include Tiger Woods (Stanford), Notah Begay (Stanford), David Duval (Georgia Tech) and Ricky Barnes (Arizona).

Oklahoma State's Leon took second place, followed by Indiana's Jorge Castillo 5-under 208.

ABOUT THE College All-America Classic

54 hole individual tournament for outstanding men's college players; hosted by the Sun Bowl Association.

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