LUTZ — Virginia Commonwealth University and Richmond combined to make 2,227 shots this weekend, but it was a single stroke that gave the Rams their first Atlantic 10 Conference Championship.
Senior Rocky Khara, from Sebring, made a par on No. 18 and placed second overall to steer Virginia Commonwealth University (+26) to a one-stroke victory over Richmond (+27) in the 2014 Atlantic 10 Men’s Golf Championship at TPC Tampa Bay.
It’s VCU’s first conference championship since 2009, when the Rams won the last of their eight Colonial Athletic Association titles.
It is VCU’s fifth league championship under Matt Ball, who was named Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year following Sunday’s victory.
Khara, who fired rounds of 72-72-71-215 and has three top-5 finishes in conference championships in his career, was 2-over for the 54-hole tournament.
Richmond’s Danny Piezetoski captured the individual title at 2-under.
“Rocky was super solid all three days and was the anchor that held everything together,” said Rams golf coach Matt Ball.
Khara grew up in Sebring and honed his game during the summers on the Sertoma Junior Golf Tour, where he learned course management on a number of challenging courses.
Behind Khara, the Rams were deep and balanced. Sophomore Adam Ball shot 68-79-73-220), freshman Enej Sarkanj had 75-72-74-221 and Matt Ball Jr. shot 71-78-73-222, which was good for fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively.
Matt Ball Jr. was also critical down the stretch for the Rams. He birdied both No. 16 and 17 as VCU looked to hold off Richmond.
“Enej was really good and made some birdies down the stretch to help out,” added Coach Ball. “Matthew and Adam, I don’t know if it was on their minds, but it was on my mind the last two years. I knew this was our chance to go to the NCAA Tournament together.”
For their efforts, Khara, Adam Ball and Matt Ball Jr. were all named to the Atlantic 10’s All-Conference Team.
VCU opened up a nine-stroke advantage at one point Sunday, but Richmond charged back on the back nine. The Spiders pulled even with the Rams as Khara and Piezetoski headed to No. 18, a 456-yard par 4.
That’s where Khara shrugged off a bogey on No. 17 and made par, while Piezetoski bogeyed 18, to clinch the title for VCU.
“Richmond looked like they were destined for a while there because they made good shot after good shot after good shot,” Coach Ball said. “We didn’t know for sure where the scoring was because live scoring was only every three holes. We knew it was really close, and any time you lost a shot it was like, uh, oh.”
With the win, VCU advances to the NCAA Regionals for the first time since 2010.
The 2014 NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championships selections will be announced live on May 5 from 10-11 a.m. during Morning Drive, Golf Channel’s daily morning news and lifestyle show.
Additionally, Morning Drive will be streamed live on Golf Channel’s website via Golf Live Extra at golfchannel.com and posted afterward on ncaa.com.
The selections news release will be available on ncaa.com immediately following completion of Morning Drive.