Courtesy of Wake Forest Athletics
It's hard to believe it has been 32 years since Wake Forest last won the Atlantic Coast Conference championship but the wait is over for the Demon Deacons after they defeated Georgia Tech, 3 and 2 in a thrilling match that went extra holes on Monday in Panama Beach, Fla.
In a back-and-forth match between two of the ACC's winningest programs, Wake Forest overcame a 2-1 deficit to win the final two matches, securing the program's first conference title since 1989 and its 19th overall.
Playing in the first match out, Georgia Tech's Christo Lamprecht
won three of the first four holes en route to a 5&4 victory over Mark Power
to give the Yellow Jackets and early lead, however, fifth-year senior Parker Gillam
evened the match for the Deacs with a 2 up win over Connor Howe
The tension mounted on the Shark's Tooth Course, where two matches that would decide the ACC Championship were still to play out.
Wake Forest's Michael Brennan
, who enjoyed as much 4-hole advantage in his match with Ross Steelman
, withstood a furious comeback by the Georgia Tech junior to pull out a 1-up victory with a birdie on the 18th hole to even the overall match at 2-2.
All eyes then turned to the match between Wake Forest senior Alex Fitzpatrick
, an All-American and Walker Cup team member and Georgia Tech's Benjamin Reuter
, a freshman from Naarden, The Netherlands who was playing in his first ACC Championship.
Though Reuter never led in the match, he nipped at Fitzpatrick's heels all day and eventually squared the match with a birdie on the 17th hole.
Wake Forest won its first ACC title since 1989
With both teams and a growing gallery in tow, both players parred the 18, sending the match to extra holes. Fitzpatrick and Reuter exchanged pars on the par-4 first and the par-3 second, sending the match to the 21st hole, the par-5 third.
However, there wouldn't be a Hollywood ending to a match that was filled with its share of drama and plot twists.
Reuter's second shot from the right side of the fairway found the penalty area to the left of the green and after taking a penalty drop, he pitched up to within 15 feet and missed his par putt and then conceded the hole and the match to Fitzpatrick, who was on the green in three.
"Just shivers down my spine, goosebumps, the excitement, knowing that my whole team, the coaches, the support was just amazing," said Fitzpatrick. "I couldn't be happier to get it done for Wake Forest. It's an incredible achievement and one I'll never forget. This is something we've worked towards for years now. The first three years we didn't get it done, but knowing that at the end of this year, I'll be leaving, and we've got an ACC championship is just an amazing thing. I'm very, very happy to have a fantastic team where we all get along. Everyone's great. It's just been an amazing time."
Georgia Tech head coach Bruce Heppler put the heartbreaking loss in perspective.
"I couldn’t be prouder of the way we competed and played," said Heppler. "We battled from top to bottom of the lineup. Ross’s match could’ve gone either way the way it played out. Benjamin competed so hard. He’s pretty torn up, but he’ll be all right. If he doesn’t do what he did yesterday, we aren’t here today. Unfortunately, only one team can win. It’s been a tremendous experience.
"We’re way more prepared for nationals than we were last year, so we’ve got a lot to look forward to."
Wake Forest and Georgia Tech Athletic Communications contributed to this report.
ABOUT THE ACC Championship
Men's collegiate championship of the
Atlantic Coast Conference. 54 holes of stroke play
(team and individual competitions) followed by match
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