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Morgan Deneen Is Sun Belt Champion; Chants Top Seed for Match Play

WPDE/Morgan Deneen sets Conference Tournament record in route to top honors.

MIRAMAR BEACH, Fla. – Morgan Deneen (Tustin, Calif.) followed his record-setting performance Monday (63) with another impressive round Tuesday (67) to win medalist honors by seven strokes at the 2018 Sun Belt Men’s Golf Championship with a league-record score of 203 (73-63-67). As a team, Coastal Carolina earned a 26-stroke victory in the stroke play portion of the Sun Belt Men's Golf Championship and will be the top seed for Wednesday's match play final four.

Coastal will face fourth-seed South Alabama in one semifinal while UT Arlington and Georgia Southern will play the other. The winners of the semifinals Wednesday morning will turn around to play for the 2018 Sun Belt Championship Wednesday afternoon and determine which team will earn the league’s automatic berth to an NCAA Regional.

While Deneen was conference champion, the star for Coastal Carolina in the final round was States Fort. The sophomore, who shot a 80 in the opening round, finished in a tie for third after a 67 in round two Monday and a round-three best score of 65 Tuesday. Fort was 1-under par for the championship, carding a 212.

Deneen, who additionally earns an automatic berth to an NCAA Regional with his conference title, and Fort were both named to the Sun Belt Championship All-Tournament Team. Also, Coastal Carolina was recognized by the league as the team has achieved at least a 3.0 while Daniel Overas and Luis Ruiz were named to the Sun Belt Academic Honor Roll.

“We had another really good day on the course today,” said first year head coach Jim Garren. “Morgan backed up a great round with another great round today. Same goes with States. It is always nice to validate good play. One of the goals today was to have low round again and we did that.”

“As great as the last three days have been, a new golf tournament starts tomorrow,” Garren added. “We have to look past what just happened and focus on South Alabama. They have a good golf team and played very well today. It’ll be a tough match and we are going to have to have all five guys on their game.”

The Chanticleers were the only team to finish stroke play under par, shooting a 7-under par 845 (294-275-276), at the par-71, 6,887-yard Raven Golf Club at Sandestin. This was Coastal’s first 54-hole team win since claiming the 2013 Big South Championship. The 845 total by the Chants is the fourth-best, 54-hiole score in school history.

Deneen’s 10-under par 203 (73-63-67) not only is a Sun Belt record, but it ties for the fourth-best, 54-hole score in school history. Deneen started the final round with a three stroke lead and did not let a pair of bogeys (one on his 2nd hole and one on the 18th) stop him from setting a Sun Belt record for 54 holes. He reeled off six birdies (holes 3, 5, 8, 10, 13 and 14). With his 11 birdies in the second round, Deneen posted 20 for the championship, five better than the next closest.

“This was truly special day for Morgan,” Garren said. “Not just what he did this week, but his whole story is just tremendous. To think that guy was sitting on our campus as a regular student for three years waiting to be found. He put on an absolute clinic today. He played high-level golf and never let the situation get to him to win in dominating fashion. What a great accomplishment for him.”

Fort, who was tied for 49th after the first round, moved to 16th after 36 holes (with a 67) and jumped another 13 spots in the final round to tie for third with his career-best 65. Fort had only had two round in the 60’s before this event and his 212 total (80-67-65) over 54 holes is a career-best five strokes. By virtue of him tying for third, which marks his first career top five finish, Fort was named to the All-Tournament team. He was able to make his final push thanks to an improbable back nine to finish the Championship. After posting nine pars on the front nine, he birdied six of his final nine holes for his 6-under par 65.

Thadd Obecny II just missed making the Sun Belt All-Tournament team as he tied for ninth with a score of 215 (72-71-72). It is Obecny’s second career top 10 finish – as well as his second of the season. He turned in two bogeys, a double bogey and three pars to shoot a 1-over 72 in the final round. He finished the championship with 37 pars, which tied for the second-best total at the event.

Ruiz, who tied for medalist honors after 54 holes last season, tied for 17th with rounds of 72-75-42 and a 54-hole total of 219. Daniel Overas, who had 35 pars for the championship and five birdies in the final round, tied for 37th with a score of 225 (77-74-74).

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