MADISON, Miss. – Jake Marler helped get them there. Charlie Flynn was there to finish it off.
Marler erased a three-hole deficit before surviving a 20-hole match-clinching marathon for Louisiana in a 3-2 semifinal match victory over South Alabama before Flynn sank a seven-foot putt on No. 18 to help the Ragin' Cajuns erase a 2-0 deficit and defeat No. 26-ranked Georgia Southern, 3-2, and claim the Sun Belt Conference Men's Golf Championship on Thursday at Annandale Golf Club.
Louisiana earned its fourth overall SBC title – and first since 2007 – after qualifying for the Match Play portion of the championship for the first time on Wednesday. Next up for Louisiana – a trip to the NCAA Regionals for the first time since 2012 when it qualified for the Greensboro Regional.
"This is tremendously special and to have a fifth-year senior do it was pretty awesome," head coach Theo Sliman said. "We had some people step up to help our program from a health and wellness side, and we have had tremendous support from our administration. We wanted to keep our guys loose during the week and after watching how we opened up play (on Monday) and remain consistent throughout stroke play, I thought we had a chance to do something really special.
"Just so proud of the guys, so proud of the effort, they never gave up. We've had a rough spring, but we believed in each other and I'm proud to bring this home to Lafayette."
LOUISIANA 3, SOUTH ALABAMA 2
Marler clinched the Ragin' Cajuns first berth to the SBC Championship match after defeating South Alabama's Will Skipp, 1-up, on the second playoff hole. Skipp won three straight holes after the duo were all square through the first two before Marler claimed his first hole at No. 18.
The junior won at both No. 2 and 3 to draw even with Skipp before taking his first lead of the match at No. 7 with two holes remaining. Skipp drew even at No. 8 and forced sudden death after halving the hole at No. 9.
Louisiana, which posted the best score on par-5 holes all week, earned the final two points of the match against the Jaguars after Hugo Thyr earned a 1-up win over Malan Potgieter for a 2-1 lead.
Eli Ortego won three of the final four holes after trailing by one against Jordan Plunkett with four holes remaining to claim a 2&1 victory before Marler sealed the win. Ortego birdied at both No. 6 and 7 and clinched his match at No. 8 after Plunkett settled for a bogey.
Louisiana trailed 1-0 before Flynn defeated Jacob LeCroy, 4&2, to earn the Ragin' Cajuns first point of the day.
LOUISIANA 3, GEORGIA SOUTHERN 2
Georgia Southern, which cruised to a 5-0 win over Troy in the first semifinal, took the first two points against Louisiana after Ben Carr defeated Matt Weber, 6&5, and Parker Claxton earned a 3&2 win over Ortego.
Marler put Louisiana on the board after claiming a 3&2 victory over Georgia Southern's Mason Williams. Marler took an early lead through the first four holes before Williams took his first lead of the day on the par-5, No. 7.
Both golfers traded holes beginning at No. 10 when Marler knotted the match before winning three straight holes beginning at No. 14 and closing the Eagles' lead to 2-1.
Potgieter controlled his match against Wilson Andress, leading by as many as three holes, before the match went to all square at No. 17. On the par-5, No. 18, Potgieter drained a birdie to claim Louisiana's second point of the day with Flynn following in the final group.
Flynn, who saved par after reaching the bunker at No. 12, broke an epic all-square contest with Brantley Baker with a birdie at No. 14 and took a two-hole lead with a par on the following hole. Baker bounced back to claim the following two holes before Flynn drained his birdie on the final hole with Baker missing right on a potential tying putt.
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2023 SUN BELT CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS
April 24-27, 2023
Madison, Miss. (Annandale Golf Club)
Par 72, 7,190 yards
LOUISIANA 3, SOUTH ALABAMA 2 (in order of finish)
Hugo Thyr (USA) def. Malan Potgieter (LA), 1-Up
Charlie Flynn (LA) def. Jacob LeCroy (USA), 4&2
Jake Marler (LA) def. Will Skipp (USA), 1-Up in 20 Holes
Eli Ortego (LA) def. Jordan Plunkett (USA), 2&1
Jack Hearn (USA) def. Matt Weber (LA), 7&5
LOUISIANA 3, GEORGIA SOUTHERN 2
Malan Potgieter (LA) def. Wilson Andress (GS), 1-Up
Charlie Flynn (LA) def. Brantley Baker (GS), 1-Up
Parker Claxton (GS) def. Eli Ortego (LA), 3&2
Jake Marler (LA) def. Mason Williams (GS), 3&2
Ben Carr (GS) def. Matt Weber (LA), 6&5
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