by Alan Babbitt
An unprecedented chapter in Hope College men's golf ended with a third Top 10 finish at the NCAA Division III Championships.
Led by national runner-up Josh Gibson, pictured left, and fellow senior Ben Kramer, pictured right, the Flying Dutchmen carded their lowest round of the 72-hole tournament on Friday and finished ninth out of 42 teams.
Hope shot a final-round 296 at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Kentucky for a four-day total of 1,207 (55-over-par). It was the third-lowest round of the day and the Flying Dutchmen's best of the tourney. The course hosts a PGA Tour event every summer.
Photo of Ben Kramer chipping by Mark Mahan
The senior class of Gibson, Kramer and Andrew Goble completed their Hope careers with sixth-place finishes in 2018 and 2017 and a 23rd-place finish in 2016. The trio helped post the three of the top four team performances at nationals in team history.
Gibson also was the Flying Dutchmen's first individual national champion in 2017 as well as the national runner-up this season.
Gibson and Kramer also earned All-America honors. Gibson made the first team, while Kramer was honorable mention.
"This group has left an imprint on this entire program — on our team and the people who follow Hope golf," head coach Scott Lokers said. "I'm so pleased with their performance over these last three years and how they've gone about it in terms of hard work, doing it together and having fun together."
Kramer's 4-under 68 topped the entire field during the final round. The senior from Spring Lake, Michigan (Spring Lake) tied for 15th overall at 8-over (76-75-77-68—296).
"It was a standout round," Lokers said. "I wasn't totally surprised. Ben has played reall well this spring. Part of it is his swing and skill and part of it is his mental maturity. Ben played really well this spring to get us to nationals. He was solid all week. To cap it off with a 68 is something I'm sure is something he'll always remember."
Two of Hope's three eagles on the day belonged to Kramer: on the 516-yard, par-5 sixth and the 520-yard, par-5 14th.
"They were two pretty reachable par-5s. They moved up the tees a little," Kramer said. "I hit two of my best drives and two of my best iron shots. One of them I made a 4 ½ foot putt. The other one was a 25-, 30-yard putt. I couldn't written up my last round any better. It was special not only for me but everyone who's supported me.
"This means a lot to me, especially thinking back to our freshmen year when we came in. To go three straight years of placing in the Top 10 is pretty remarkable. To do with it with a great group of guys makes it even more special."
Photo of Josh Gibson with his PING All-America plaque by Scott Lokers
Gibson fired a 1-under 71 at Keene Trace Golf Club Champion course. The two-time PING All-American ended the tournament at 1-under (72-71-73-71—287).
The senior from Grandville, Michigan (Grandville HS) finished two strokes behind champion Sam Goldenring of Williams College (Massachusetts). They were only two golfers in the 42-team field who came in under par.
A two-time finalist for the Jack Nicklaus Division III National Player of the Year ard, Gibson also eagled the 14th hole. The 2018 Nicklaus award winner hit a 9-iron 168 yards in to leave an eight-foot putt for eagle.
A string of three consecutive bogeys during the middle of his final nine holes kept Gibson out of first place.
Hope also received a final-round 77 from junior Daniel Settecerri of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan (Bloomfield Hills). He tied for 53rd at 19-over.
Junior Noah Weigle of Grandville, Michigan (Grandville) tied for 85th overall at 32-over. He shot a final round of 83.
Goble came in 91st at 40-over. The senior from Brighton, Michigan (Brighton) recorded a final-round 80.
While Gibson admitted he was a little disappointed he could not claim a second individual NCAA title, he also expressed pride of his team's postseason accomplishment. No Hope team had finished higher than 17th at nationals prior to the 2017 NCAA championships.
"Looking back and seeing where the program was and where we are now, it's really cool to see all the success we've had," Gibson said.
Illinois Wesleyan won the team national title at 22-over.