It didn’t make it feel any better that the third-ranked Wake Forest men’s golf team lost last week to the eventual national champion in the NCAA Championships in Fayetteville, Ark.
The Deacons, who lost 3-2 against Stanford in the quarterfinals of match play, had made it through the stroke-play portion of the tournament in great shape and were the No. 3 seed in the match play, which had just eight teams left.
Coach Jerry Haas of the Deacons rode his depth-filled team all season as they won five times, the most since the 1983-84 season when Haas was a junior on the golf team. He felt confident about their chances to win the school’s fourth national championship.
“In match play, there’s such a fine line,” said Haas, who completed his 22nd season as head coach and was a finalist for national coach of the year honors. “We did end up losing to Stanford, but it could have been different with a few more putts falling.”
The Deacons will lose two key starters in Cameron Young and Lee Detmer, who both graduated after outstanding seasons. Detmer came on down the stretch of his final season and tied for fourth in the individual portion of the NCAA Championships.
The finish for Detmer, who will play on the Canadian Tour this summer as a professional, was a career best for the Deacons.
It was also the eighth different player for Haas’ deep team that had the lowest score in a tournament during the 2018-19 season.
“I really liked the way all the guys contributed and how deep and committed they were,” Haas said.
Haas has had several talented teams in his coaching career but wasn’t shy about where this one stood.
“I think it’s my best team,” he said. “And I think we showed it throughout the season with a lot of consistency. We didn’t like the way it ended but that’s to be expected.”
Three Deacons played in the NCAA Championships, including rising sophomores Eugenio Chacarra and Alex Fitzpatrick, who were mainstays this season. Eric Bae, a rising senior, has been a three-year starter, and even though he battled an injury late in the season, he is expected to be a leader next season.
Also, rising redshirt sophomore Kengo Aoshima, who made all-region, will be counted on heavily by Haas next season. Parker Gillam, Kyle Sterbinsky and Charlie Kennerly should add depth to next season.
The Deacons have two incoming recruits in Fulton Smith of Pinehurst and Mark Power, who is from Ireland and two years ago was the Irish boys champion.
“I’ve said it earlier this season, but I really like where we are headed over the next two to three years,” Haas said.
Combined between the fall and the spring, Wake Forest put together a 167-15 record. Oklahoma State, the runaway winner of the stroke play portion of the NCAA Championships, went 142-10 this past season. The wins and losses are from all the tournaments played with the large fields.
In the 15 tournaments the Deacons played in this past season, the highest finish was fourth in the Golf Club of Georgia tournament in October. The Deacons set a school record for team stroke average with eight players averaging below 72.
“Coming off this season should be a boost for us heading into this fall,” Haas said. “We made the match play for the first time (since 2009 when the format was changed) and they will all be working hard this summer playing in various tournaments.”