BALTIC, Conn. --- The UConn men's golf team honored a team of visiting military veterans by giving them a performance to remember.
UConn junior Eric Dietrich (Cheshire, Conn.) won the first tournament of his college career, highlighted by his course-record 64 in Sunday's final round, to lead the Huskies to an 11-stroke victory in the Til Duty Is Done Collegiate Invitational, held at the Mohegan Sun Golf Club.
The tournament honors Til Duty Is Done, a Connecticut-based organization that helps returning military veterans with housing, employment and education. The tourney featured the unique aspect of a competing team consisting entirely of veterans from the Veteran Golfers Association (VGA), playing alongside the 12 college teams.
It was the second tournament championship of the 2015-16 season for the Huskies and their seventh top five finish in 10 events. Their performance in the Til Duty Is Done, however, is likely the finest all-around performance in the nine-year head coaching career of UConn's Dave Pezzino. UConn had four players shoot under par and had five players finish among the top 10.
The Huskies shot a sizzling 18-under 287-277-282=846 to outdistance the field in the 13-team tourney. Rhode Island was the runner-up, shooting a 7-under 293-282-288=857, while Army West Point was third with a 2-over 877.
Dietrich was simply outstanding, shooting the lowest tourney score, a 13-under 203 (73-66-64=203), and the lowest round, 64, of his career, topping runner-up Evan Russell of Hartford by three strokes. Dietrich had two eagles during the tourney and led the 76-player field by playing the Par 5 holes in 6-under par. It is the sixth top 10 and ninth top 20 finish of his career and he now has shot 20 rounds of par of better and nine sub-70 rounds.
Freshman Blake Kelley (Manchester, Conn.), playing as an individual in his first event of the season, tied for fourth place with a 6-under (73-67-70=210).
Senior co-captains Zach Zaback (Farmington, Conn.) and John Flaherty (Glastonbury, Conn.), also notched top 10 finishes. Zaback tied for sixth place with a 4-under 67-70-75=212, the 15th top 10 finish and 24th top 20 finish of his college career. Flaherty shot a 1-under 74-70-71=215 to finish eighth, his eighth top 10 finish.
Also finishing in the top 10 was UConn senior Cameron MacKay (Brookfield, Conn.), who shot a 1-over 73-72-72=217 to finish in a tie for 10th place, his second top-10 finish. Rounding out the UConn team finish was senior Corey Birch (Ridgefield, Conn.) who tied for 35th place with a 79-71-79=229.
Besides Kelley, there were five additional Huskies who played as individuals. Freshman Jimmy Hervol (Hopkinson, Mass.) shot 74-76-71=221 to tie for 16th place, junior Tyler Cooke (Warwick, R.I.) shot 75-72-77=224 to tie for 25th place, and sophomore Sasha Wortelboer (Geneva, Switzerland) shot 78-79-75=232 to tie for 40th place. Also competing for the Huskies were freshman Nabeel Khan (Westerville, Ohio), who shot 80-78-75=233 to tie for 45th place and freshman Nick Harrington (Chaplin, Conn.), who shot 74-78-84=236 to tie for 53rd place.
Team VGA indeed competed in the tourney, finishing 13th, but had their own highlight on Sunday when Staff Sergeant Micah Tilley fired a hole-in-one on the 16th hole.
UConn will end its season on May 1-3, when it competes in the American Athletic Conference Championship at the Quarry Course at the Black Diamond Ranch in Lecanto, Fla.