June 4, 2014
Niclas Carlsson's senior season concluded with the fourth-best single-season stroke average and second-best career stroke average in Auburn history.
It was another year of unquestioned success for the Auburn golf team. Three team championships, eight top-five finishes, a third-place showing at the SEC Championships and a third consecutive trip to the NCAA Championships capped what has turned into an unparalleled run for the program.
"The 2013-14 season was another extremely successful year for the team. Three team wins and two individual champions along with two All-SEC players and two NCAA All-Southeast Region players were a testament to hard work and strong self-belief throughout the season," head coach Nick Clinard said. "It was a fun and enjoyable season to coach such fine young men that are truly committed to being the best on and off the golf course."
Auburn played in four fall tournaments to gear up for the spring. Following a sixth-place finish at the Amer Ari Invitational at Waikoloa, Hawai'I,to start the spring tournament season, Auburn went on a run of three team titles in four events. The team repeated as the Mobile Bay Intercollegiate champions, won the Tiger Invitational at Grand National and reclaimed the Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate at Awendaw, S.C.
Senior Niclas Carlsson began his assault on the record books at Mobile Bay, finishing second at 4-under. It was the first of five spring tournaments that Carlsson would be the team's low-scorer as he would also finish third at the Tiger Invitational (-8) and tie for first at the Hootie at Bulls Bay (-7) before hitting the post-season. By the time his senior season was over he would record the fourth-best single-season scoring average in Auburn history (71.18) and the second-best for a career (72.28).
"Niclas had an exceptional senior season highlighted by graduating cum laude and being named an All-SEC and to the NCAA All-Southeast Region Team. Watching Niclas mature as a person and golfer over four years was very rewarding and now he's in position to play professional golf at the elite level. He's a very a good ball-striker with great length that should have immediate success at the next level," Clinard said. "One thing is for certain, player development at Auburn is one of, if not the best, in the nation. Niclas continues a list of players that have left with many accolades and are prepared for life and pro golf beyond college."
With the team blazing through tournaments, their hard work was being recognized. Will Long, a freshman from Gastonia, N.C., was named the SEC Freshman of the Week following his 8-under, 10th-place finish at the USF Invitational, ironically the only tournament in the stretch of four that Auburn didn't win.
A month later it was freshman Matt Gilchrest garnering SEC honors as he was named the SEC Golfer and Freshman of the Week following his four-stroke win at the UK Bluegrass Invitational. Gilchrest shot 68-68-71--207 to finish at 9-under as Auburn prepared for the post-season.
"It was a great win for Matt and the first of many," Clinard would say following the Bluegrass Invitational.
Heading into the SEC Championships at Sea Island Golf Club, Auburn was ranked No. 26 in the Golfstat rankings, which was eighth among the 14 SEC squads. Clinard's crew of Carlsson, Gilchrest, Jake Mondy, Long and Daniel Stringfellow would not let the rankings sway their confidence or their play as the team claimed a third consecutive top-three finish with an 11-under, 274-281-274--829 to place third behind only top-ranked Alabama and No. 22 LSU.
"It was a very solid week and I'm proud of my team," Clinard would say following the weekend. "We've had an outstanding spring season and are looking forward to NCAAs."
Following the conference championship, Carlsson and Gilchrest were named Second Team All-SEC. For Carlsson it marked the third time in his career in which he won a conference post-season honor as he was named Freshman All-SEC in 2011 and a Second Team All-SEC in 2012. Gilchrest not only was named Second Team but also All-Freshman as his 71.50 stroke average up to that point was ninth in the SEC and second-best among SEC Freshmen. His final 71.89 stroke average would be the second-lowest by an Auburn freshman in program history.
"Nic and Matt are both very deserving of these honors. I am very proud of them. They have worked very diligently and it has shown in their play all year," Clinard said upon the release of the post-season awards.
Already announced as one of six host sites for the 2014 NCAA Regionals, Auburn looked forward to its chance to play at its home course, the Auburn University Club, for its shot at a place in the NCAA Championships. The team did not disappoint, finishing third in a field that included nine teams ranked among the top-50 in the country. Carlsson was again Auburn's low-scorer, finishing in a tie for seventh at 1-under.
"Obviously you want to win but just qualifying is fun," Clinard said following the regional. "You want to be in Kansas next week. It's a new tournament and we're looking forward to it."
Playing in the NCAA Championships for the third straight season and the 19th time overall, Auburn was one of 30 teams to descend upon Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan. The team had to battle both rain delays and 29 other teams over four days and was able to reach as high as a tie for third after the first round before falling back to 23rd place by the time the championship was over.
With the team proving to be successful on the course, the same could be said in the classroom as both Carlsson and Blake Soni graduated on time and with honors.
"Both Blake and Niclas graduated with academic honors, cum laude, which shows Auburn golf represents the definition of a true student-athlete," said Clinard.
"We have now finished in the top three of the SEC Championship and NCAA Regionals for three straight years, which solidifies our program as one of the best in the SEC and the entire nation. In addition, we have finished the final national rankings in the top 25 for four consecutive years, which is quite an accomplishment from the past and present players. It's a privilege to coach at Auburn University and we are going to continue winning championships for many years to come."