No. 1 Auburn dominates Mossy Oak Collegiate to collect 4th consecutive victory

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No. 1 Auburn dominated at this year’s Mossy Oak Collegiate Tournament in Mississippi. (AU Athletics)

WEST POINT, Miss. – It was a showing of pure dominance for No. 1 Auburn men’s golf Tuesday as the Tigers finished the Mossy Oak Collegiate at 46-under-par to collect a fourth consecutive victory, this time by 34 strokes. Senior J.M. Butler and junior Brendan Valdes earned co-medalist honors with a pair of 12-under performances.

All six Auburn players finished inside the individual top seven with spots one through five all being swept by the Tigers.

“Any time you can go out and win the way we did, it gives the team a boost of confidence,” Tigers head coach Nick Clinard said. “This is the time of year you want to get hot.

“It is great to see our team fueled by a desire to not only compete with the teams beside them but with their own brothers as well. They’re best friends off the course, but on the course, they all want to beat one another.”

Butler picked up his second win in three events. He 67 (-5) in his final round. The Louisville, Kentucky native made four birdies, including the 500th of his collegiate career on 14, as well as one clutch eagle on 17 to secure a share of the individual crown.

“This is what we came here to do,” Butler said. “All the guys played well this week. It wasn’t one or two of us but all six. That’s what makes this group special and why we know we’re ready to chase some rings this postseason.”

On Monday morning, he found a foursome of birdies on both the front and back half to clear the path for a 68 (-4) to begin the week. In that afternoon’s second round, he erased bogeys on 1 and 18 with birdies on 3, 7, 13, 16 and 17 for the 69 (-3). His 13 birdies through the first 36 holes ranked first amongst the 83-man field.

Like Butler, Valdes was also aided by a final round 67 (-5). He made one bogey on 2 and made six birdies. The win was the second of his career and his first this season.

“It was really cool to come out with a team and individual win,” Valdes said. “The course wasn’t necessarily too tough, but the pin placements and the wind really forced us to put the ball in some good spots.”

To start his showing at Mossy Oak, Valdes earned a 68 (-4). He went birdie-bogey-birdie on the first three holes and then picked up three more birdies on 7, 10 and 12 before parring out to end the frame. He shot a 69 (-3) with one bogey, four birdies and 13 pars in the second round.

Freshman Jackson Koivun began his stay in West Point with a flashy 66 (-6) in the opener. He made birdie five times, on holes 3, 5, 13, 15 and 16, and eagled 10 to immediately place himself in contention. In Monday afternoon’s round, he fired a 69 (-3), picking up six more birdies on 4, 5, 7, 9, 10 and 12. It was the 20th subpar round of the rookie’s debut season. He surpassed Brandon Mancheno’s (2017-20) previous record of 19 for the most below par rounds by a freshman in school history.

On Tuesday, Koivun threw up a 71 (-1) to earn third overall.

Redshirt junior Carson Bacha hit the ground running from the very first hole of the tournament. He birdied 1, 5, 10, 12 and 15 in the first round for a 69 (-3) and followed it up with an even stronger 66 (-6) later that afternoon. Bacha made just one mistake in the middle round, a bogey on 14, and collected key birdies on 3, 6, 7, 10, 12, 13 and 17 to put himself into a share of first place with Koivun heading into the finale.

In the final round, Bacha shot even-par (72) to take fourth.

The last of Auburn’s super five, freshman Josiah Gilbert, battled in his opening round and found a clutch birdie on 17 to finish below par at 71 (-1). He then exploded that afternoon for an eye-catching 66 (-6). He bogeyed 14 but more than made up for it with birdies on 1, 7, 9, 10, 12, 13 and 17. On Tuesday, he shot even-par (72) to earn fifth.

Par golf was the name of sophomore individual Reed Lotter’s game Monday morning. He made 13 and used his team-leading sixth eagle of the season on 7 to card the 70 (-2). He shot even-par (72) in the middle round. His best score, a 3-under 69, came Tuesday. He was aided by six birdies, including four on his first eight holes.

Up next, Auburn looks to make its fifth consecutive win a grand one as the Tigers head to the 2024 SEC Championship, April 24-28. Seaside Golf Club in St. Simons Island, Georgia will host the tournament.