Auburn takes down Vanderbilt to win SEC championships
Auburn men's golf team (Kevin Price Photo)
Auburn men's golf team (Kevin Price Photo)

The Auburn golf team arrived at this week’s SEC Men’s Golf Championship as the top-ranked team in the country, and the Tigers ended up leaving the conference tournament with all of the hardware, too. 

The Tigers claimed the team championship Sunday with an impressive performance throughout their lineup as they defeated second-ranked Vanderbilt 3 and 2 in the team finals at the Sea Island Golf Club in coastal Georgia.

The team title was the fifth all-time for Auburn and second for the program under longtime head coach Nick Clinard. The Tigers also won the SEC crown under his watch in the 2018 season. Auburn finished as the tournament runner-up in 2019 after winning the stroke-play competition. 

“This is the best league in the country, the best players in the country, and to go out and win it, hats off to our guys who work so hard,” Clinard said. 

The Tigers won the league title for the first time at Sea Island back in 2002 when the SEC brought its conference championship back to the Georgia coast after the inaugural tournament there the previous spring.


This week, Auburn also won the stroke-play tournament to become the No. 1 seed for the eight-team match-play championship to decide the league champion. 

The Tigers were led by freshman standout Jackson Koivun, who became the fifth player in program history and the first freshman player from Auburn to capture the SEC individual championship. 

Ranked in the top five in collegiate golf and No. 28 in the Golfweek/AmateurGolf.com World Rankings, the Chapel, N.C., native shot 12-under-par over the three rounds with three straight 66 scores to win medalist honors by six strokes on the par-70 Seaside layout on St. Simons Island which borders the Atlantic Ocean. 

After the three rounds, the Tigers were 14-under as a team Friday, tied with Tennessee for the top spot on the scoreboard. Auburn was awarded the top overall seed for match play on the weekend through a tiebreaker. 

On Saturday, Auburn toppled rival and ninth-ranked Alabama 3 and 2 in the team quarterfinals before punching its ticket to the championship match against Vanderbilt with a 4 and 1 victory over 11th-ranked Arkansas. 

“We came here and were really focused hard on the stroke-play portion. We wanted to win the stroke play,” Clinard said. “We felt like that was the true testament to the best team. Could we go out and do that? And, we were able to tie Tennessee for first.

Nick Clinard reminisces on 50 career wins with Auburn

“And then to go out and win a really tough match against Alabama and get all the way to the finals and win today, I’m super proud of them.”

Against the Commodores, no one was more impressive for the Tigers than Koivun who secured the team’s first point with a 7 and 6 victory over Matthew Riedel. Koivun was 4-under on the opening nine holes while building a 4-up lead. He proceeded to birdie the first two holes on the back nine to surge ahead by six holes before closing out the match with a par for the win at the par-3 12th hole. 

With his Sunday triumph, Koivun won all three of his matches on the weekend to go with his march to the individual title. 

“Jackson Koivun, he’s the best player in the country. At least, he’s playing like the best player in the country,” Clinard said. 

Redshirt junior Carson Bacha, in the first match out in the final, gave the Tigers a 2-0 lead winning his contest against William Moll by a 1-up score. The match went all 18 holes as the two players combined for 11 birdies in their matchup. 

Josiah Gilbert, another freshman for the Tigers, clinched the deciding point in the final with his 4-up win over Gordon Sargent, the No. 1-ranked player in the Golfweek/AmateurGolf.com World Rankings.  

The Australian’s victory was perhaps the most surprising result in the championship meeting as he never trailed after taking the lead on the third hole. Gilbert made bogey on the first hole to go 1-down, but parred the second while Sargent made bogey to quickly square the match. 

Gilbert then put together three straight birdies to take three more holes in succession and held a 3-up advantage at the turn. He went up by four holes immediately on the back nine with a birdie at the par -4 10th. 

Sargent won his first hole on the back with his second birdie of the day at the 14th hole, but Gilbert closed him out and secured the SEC title for the Tigers with a match-clinching birdie at the par-4 16th hole. 

“It was just an opportunity to put your name out there,” he said about facing the world’s top-ranked amateur. “I’m not one of the most known guys out here, but I feel like that might change a little bit after this week.

“But yeah, it was just a chance to go prove myself. I know my game’s up there with a lot of them. I lost the first hole, turned it around and won four holes in a row. After that, it was just locking in, playing some steady golf and doing my own thing. I know my game is good enough to be up there.”

Vanderbilt got a 3 and 1 win from Jackson Van Paris over Brendan Valdes who led his counterpart 1-up after nine holes. Van Paris rallied on the back, winning the first four holes to grab the lead for good. 

Vandy’s Cole Sherwood was leading J.M. Butler by 1-up through 13 holes when their match was stopped with the overall match already decided. 

The Commodores were playing in their fourth consecutive match-play final in the conference tournament. They won back-to-back league crowns in 2021 and 2022 before falling in the final last year to the Florida Gators who also went on to claim the national championship. 

Vanderbilt also won the SEC in 2017 when it reached the  match-play final for the first time in its history. 

Auburn also defeated Vanderbilt back in the fall in the SEC Match-Play Championship played in Birmingham, Ala. The Tigers won there by a 3-2 count as well with two matches including the final one going extra holes. 

The Tigers get the SEC’s automatic invitation to the NCAA tournament as the conference champion. 

The NCAA tournament field will be announced on Wednesday.


One More Thing: The Auburn team had one more mission to fulfill Sunday night upon returning home to the Plains before putting this SEC championship to rest
and looking forward to the rest of the postseason as they also hope to claim the national championship in the coming weeks.

Part of their championship celebration was going to be rolling Toomer’s Corner back in Auburn on Sunday night. That’s a well-known tradition at the university following a big win by one of the school’s athletic teams.

This tradition of wrapping the live oak trees takes place at the intersection of College Street and Magnolia Avenue, where the Auburn campus and City of Auburn come together. It is named Toomer’s Corner for former state senator “Shell” Toomer, a former football player at Auburn who founded Toomer’s Drugs which is located on the corner of the intersection and has been an Auburn landmark for more than a century.

Buddy’s Back: One of Auburn’s assistant coaches is Buddy Alexander, once a head coach in the SEC himself. He was promoted to the assistant ranks with the school’s men’s and women’s teams prior to this season after serving last year as a volunteer assistant.

Alexander was the head coach at Florida from 1998 to 2014, leading the Gators to eight SEC championships and two national titles. He also was the head coach at LSU from 1982-87 and led the Tigers to back-to-back SEC crowns in 1986-87.

He is a seven-time SEC Coach of the Year and three-time NCAA Coach of the Year. Alexander was a two-time All- American as a player at Georgia Southern.

Also Winners in Atlanta: The last two champions at the Dogwood Invitational at Druid Hills Golf Club in suburban Atlanta are currently playing for SEC schools.

And, both played well this week in the SEC tournament at Sea Island. Carson Bacha, the 2022 winner, is a redshirt junior on this year’s Auburn team that won the championship on Sunday.

Bacha won his individual match in Sunday’s final against Vanderbilt and T41 in the stroke-play tourney at 3-over par (70-71-72) on the par-70 Seaside
Course which hosted the conference event.

Also, last year’s Dogwood champion, Hunter Logan, tied for second this week at 6-under (68-87-69). He is a graduate student this year for Mississippi State which finished 10th in the stroke-play as a team and did not reach the match-play portion of the championship.

The Dogwood Invitational will be played June 3-8. For several years now, it has kicked off the summer amateur golf tournament schedule as the first major men’s tournament following the completion of the collegiate season.

On Deck: The next big tournament featuring collegiate players at Sea Island will be the Sea Island Women’s Amateur which will take place on May 28-31, also on the Seaside Course.

This is the fourth year of the tournament which has steadily grown in stature since the first one. The event will move from July to May for the first time this year and will be the first tournament in the new Women’s Elite Amateur Golf Series

Results: SEC Championship
1NCJackson KoivunChapel Hill, NC80066-66-66=198
T2TXMatthew RiedelHouston, TX50067-69-68=204
T2MSHunter LoganSteens, MS50068-67-69=204
T2PortugalDaniel RodriguesPortugal50067-68-69=204
T2FLJack TurnerOrlando, FL50068-65-71=204

View full results for SEC Championship

ABOUT THE SEC Championship

54-hole stroke play tournament crowns an individual champion, then eight teams advance to match play to determine the SEC team champion.

View Complete Tournament Information

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