Auburn finishes its best season in program history with a storybook ending
02 Jun 2024
by Justin Golba of AmateurGolf.com

see also: John Marshall Butler Rankings

Auburn celebrates the winning point (Auburn Athletics Photo)
Auburn celebrates the winning point (Auburn Athletics Photo)

Throughout the 2023-24 Division I men’s collegiate golf season, The Auburn Tigers were the best team in the country.

Now, they are national champions for the first time in program history.

“It’s hard to put into words,” Auburn head coach Nick Clinard said. “It involves a lot of hard work, commitment, self-belief from the payers, and belief in each other.

“Belief in the vision and the vision of a program and its standards,” Clinard added, “I just can't be more proud of the team with how hard they worked and how connected they are, how much they hang out with each other.”

Auburn's best season in program history featured its fifth SEC championship and second consecutive NCAA Regional title. Clinard also recorded his 50th career win with the Tigers this season.

Jackson Koivun, the freshman phenom, won the Ben Hogan Award and Fred Haskins Award, college golf's highest individual honors. Koivun is currently ranked No. 14 in the Golfweek/AmateurGolf.com World Rankings.

The Tigers won ten tournaments, including seven straight victories to end the season.

As talented as the Tigers were on the course, coach Clinard knows the off the course work was just as important.

“The culture in the locker room was just absolutely phenomenal,” Clinard said.

“I think it’s everything,” Clinard said about culture. “I really do. Whether you are running a team of 10 or 12 student-athletes or a corporation of 2,000 people, I think culture is what drives the bus. We have great connectivity, and we have a shared vision. Our guys believe in it, and they believe in each other.” 

This Auburn squad has bought into that from day one.

“They are best friends and have a unique brotherhood and bond,” Clinard said. “It is something we openly talk about all the time. I am a believer in that. If you have a great culture, then people will work harder, and they will work harder for each other.” 

Auburn finished in solo sixth place in the stroke play portion. It wasn’t the best showing of the season, but they moved on to the match play portion nonetheless.

“I thought we were a little sloppy in the stroke play,” Clinard said. “We didn’t play great. It took us too long to figure out the golf course. We have a lot of guys who are very aggressive and make a lot of birdies, and on that golf course, you have to be really disciplined.” 

Clinard added, “We were probably overly aggressive.”

However, in match play, the Tigers turned it on and defeated Virginia 3-1 in the quarterfinals, defeated Ohio State 3-2-0 in the semifinal, and defeated Florida State in the final match 3-2-0.

Koivun delivered the clinching point against Ohio State in the semifinals with a birdie on the 21st hole. 

“When you play college sports, you are playing for something greater than yourself,” Clinard said. “You're playing for your family, coaches, teammates, and school, and (Koivun) didn’t want to disappoint them.”

Clinard added about Koivun, “He is such a competitor, and Adam Wallin is a phenomenal player. Jackson hit the shots when it mattered and made the birdie on the 21st hole.”

Koivun finished the season 8-0 in match play, and J.M. Butler, who delivered the point that clinched the national championship, never trailed in a match all week.

“Our guys love match play and believe in each other and their teammates,” Clinard said.

A special team capped off a special season with the ultimate title. 

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