GNTC's Branton Bailey

GNTC's Branton Bailey (GNTC Athletics)

With just nine holes to play in the final round of the 2017 United States Collegiate Athletic Association Men’s Golf National Championship at Penn State University, Georgia Northwestern Technical College -- who as recently as five months ago was still signing players to field a team after a year’s hiatus -- found itself atop the leaderboard.

Unfortunately for the Bobcats, they couldn’t close the deal.

After making the turn at 7-over par as a team on Tuesday afternoon, things went sour for the Navy-and-Silver down the stretch. A tough back nine, along with a couple of two-stroke penalties, conspired against the Bobcats as they went 18-over on the final nine holes and slipped to fourth place in the final team standings.

Cleary University (Mich.), the 2015 national champions who shot a 298 in Monday’s opening round, couldn’t keep up the pace in the final 18 holes. They carded a 311 on Tuesday, leaving the door open for SUNY-Delhi, who fired a 295. That score, combined with a 309 in the opening round, gave the Broncos a 36-hole total of 604 and the national title.

The 295 was the fourth-lowest round by a team in the history of the USCAA National Championships.

Cleary still had enough to hang for the runner-up trophy as their 609 was two shots clear of Indiana’s St. Mary’s of the Woods College (301-310). Georgia Northwestern (303-313) finished at 616.

Individually, former Gordon Central standout Branton Bailey carded scores of 75 and 78 for the Bobcats. His total of 153 was low enough to earn second team All-American honors. Adrian Clark finished at 155 (75-80), while David Manis (157) rebounded from an opening round 83 to fire a team-low 2-over par 74 on Tuesday. Former Sonoraville standout Lane Strickland shot a 153 (77-81) and Cole Roberts finished up with a 162 (76-86).

Colton Kuppler of St. Mary’s (75-70) and Russell Herbert of SUNY-Delhi (72-73) finished tied at 1-over par (145) in the individual standings after 36 holes. Kuppler later carded a birdie on the first playoff hole to win the individual championship.

A total of 21 teams qualified for the National Championships. Nearly two-thirds of the teams that qualified offer athletic scholarships. Georgia Northwestern is one of the teams that does not.

The USCAA National Championships may be over, but the fall season still has a month to go for Georgia Northwestern. The Bobcats will play at the Berry College Invitational at the Stonebridge Golf and Country Club in Rome on Oct. 22-24 before heading to Alexander City, Ala. on Nov. 12-14 for the Trojan Invitational, hosted by Central Alabama Community College.