By David Salley
HSU Sports Information
HOT SPRINGS — Henderson State shot a tournament-low round of 5-under 283 on Tuesday to force a playoff at the 2022 Great American Conference Championships, then made two eagles at the No. 10 hole to defeat Southwestern Oklahoma State and win the program’s record sixth GAC title.
The Reddies entered Tuesday’s final round three shots back of SWOSU and a stroke behind defending national champion Arkansas Tech. HSU trailed by as many as six shots during the last 18 holes before rallying on the back nine to force a tie with the Bulldogs. Fifth-year seniors Nick Shapiro and Mitchell Ford, who won their third titles as members of the program, each made birdies at the 18th to help Henderson stay alive.
In the playoff at the Par 5, No. 10, SWOSU sent three golfers in the opening round and the Reddies sent two: Ford and Miller Harris. Ford parred the hole and Harris birdied it, leaving HSU one stroke back of the Bulldogs, whose three golfers came up with two birdies.
With Southwestern sitting at 2-under and HSU at 1-under, the momentum swung for Henderson in the second wave. Shapiro, Josh McNulty and Alex Hadden stepped into the tee box for the Reddies and delivered in the biggest moment of the year, as the trio shot a combined 5-under par to send HSU to a three-stroke victory, 6-under to 3-under.
Shapiro turned in a birdie to level the team score while both McNulty and Hadden were able to reach the green in two and convert putts for back-to-back eagles. Henderson did not make an eagle in the 54-hole tournament prior to the playoff against SWOSU.
McNulty and Shapiro, who tied for second individually at 1-under par, each earned All-GAC Tournament honors. Shapiro shot a team-low round of 3-under 69 on Tuesday. Ford and Harris both shot even-par 72 in the final round and tied for ninth place. Hadden finished his first career GAC Championships in a tie for 12th at 5-over par.
The Reddies finished 3-over for the tournament with a team score of 867. SWOSU earned the runner-up trophy after falling in the playoff, while two-time defending champion Arkansas Tech took third place at 9-over. The conference crown is the sixth for Henderson State since 2014.
With the victory, HSU earned the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Central/Midwest Regional in Noblesville, Indiana on May 5-7. It will be the program’s ninth-consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament.–