Season Opener 
Monday, Sept. 11 – Tuesday, Sept. 12 • 54 Holes • Sam Hall Intercollegiate Golf Tournament
Hattiesburg, Miss. • Hattiesburg Country Club • par 71 • 6,902 yards
Full Team Results • Full Individual Results • @BearkatsMGolf on Twitter

HATTIESBURG, Miss. – Austen Christiansen walked down the fairway of the 18th hole understanding the importance of his next shot. The junior transfer told his coach, “I’ve got this.”

The Houston native struck his second shot within three feet of the hole, tapping in for birdie as Sam Houston State completed an eight-stroke final round comeback before helping the Bearkats to an eventual two-stroke playoff victory against UTA at the Sam Hall Intercollegiate.

Sam Houston (5-over, 857) steadily made up ground in its final round after trailing host Southern Miss and UTSA. Jake McCrory led the charge, firing a final-round 2-under, 69, the third-lowest individual score on the day to vault ahead 17 spots up the leaderboard and finish tied for eighth.

William Holcomb and Christiansen each impressed, carding a 1-under, 71, and even-par, 70, respectively to finish in a four-way tie for fourth. The tandem finished just two strokes off Missouri State’s Brad Carpenter, who won the season-opening event at 2-under.

Meanwhile, Noah Steele finished in a six-way tie for 28th at 6-over, 219, thanks to a final-round 75. Levi Valadez followed closely behind in a three-way tie for 34th at 7-over, 220, after shooting a third-round 75. Competing individually, Jesse Massengale rose up nine spots on the final day to take a tie for 57th at 16-over, 229.

Steele added a critical go-ahead birdie to jump start the playoff courtesy of a 30-foot downhill putt. Christiansen made it a two-stroke lead with his birdie on 18. In the playoff, UTA tapped in four pars while Sam Houston posted two pars and as many birdies.

The victory marked the first time since the 2015 Southland Conference championship that the team had won an event. It was also Sam Houston’s first season-opening win since the Bearkats captured first on Sept. 11, 2008 at the North Texas Classic.

UTA finished second (5-over, 587) followed by Southern Miss (7-over, 857) who fell two spots on the final day. UTSA took fourth (8-over, 860) and Missouri State rounded out the top-five (12-over, 864).

Sam Houston looks to continue its hot beginning to the season when it visits the Ram Masters Invitational presented by Pederson Toyota held next Monday and Tuesday at the par-70, 7,218-yard Fort Collins Country Club in Fort Collins, Colo.

QUOTEABLES:
Head coach Brandt Kieschnick on the victory…

“We wanted them to put their blinders on and play one shot at a time, have good body language and embrace the moment. We knew we had a chance. We knew if we played clean we could make up a bunch of strokes. We were six strokes back after nine and three down after 15. Austen birdied the last two holes for us to make the playoffs. He hit a hybrid to a foot from 233 yards on 17. On 18, Robert (Thompson) and I were in the fairway. Austen knew he had to birdie 18 to make a playoff. Robert gave him a really good yardage and he hit one to about three feet and made birdie.”

Head coach Brandt Kieschnick on Austen’s performance…
“He was injured and missed a lot of his season (last year). He won his freshman year in D1. He has some really good golf in him. He got injured and decided he wanted to transfer closer to home. He loves being a Bearkat. We’ve got nine guys that love Sam Houston and want to win here. This is a special win. It is hard to win at Southern Miss’s evet.”

Head coach Brandt Kieschnick on the team…
“It’s not just Austen. These guys love the moment. They don’t shy away or get nervous. They want the ball with three seconds left. I told him this is his moment. He is a picture of all five of these guys. They are competitors. He had his moment but all five were right there doing it today.”

Head coach Brandt Kieschnick on being in the hunt…
“We were trying to win but regardless we were going to be a better team because we put ourselves in contention. We needed to feel contention. These are new players. We needed to experience what we would do under the gun. These guys embrace competition. They knew eight shots is nothing in Division I golf.”

Austen Christiansen on the stretch run…
“When I was on 17, I had no idea where we stood. A guy in my group doubled but I kind of sprayed my tee shot way left. I punched out to 233 yards a little into the wind and was able to tap in for birdie. I stepped up on 18 tee and hit one right down the middle. Coach asked me if I wanted to know what I needed to do. He told me I had to birdie to force a playoff.”

Austen Christiansen on the victory… “It feels amazing, especially with it being the first tournament of the year. We have two new guys in the lineup and got the job done. It springs us forward. It puts a really good taste in our mouth. Now we know what it takes to win. We can reflect back on this when we get into contention later on.”

William Holcomb on his fourth-place result…
“I just tried to go win it today. I wanted to play as good as I could to give myself a chance to win. I knew we could win. We were blessed enough that Austen came through and played awesome. It was one of the greatest feelings I’ve had playing golf. He made a birdie on the last hole which is what everyone growing up as a kid dreams of.”

William Holcomb on the squad…
“We’re a super deep team. I was thinking about myself but everyone could have won the tournament. I felt really confident we would win. I feel like everyone did what we set out to do and that’s each of us getting in contention. We have some studs. I just wanted to give myself a chance. If we all do that every week, we’ll win every tournament. We didn’t win last year and we wanted to get that under our belt.”