Rebel golfers finish strong to claim title

Kyle Ellis wasn't sure the golf ball went into the cup. Ernest Ross, his coach, was looking through binoculars and said he believed it had. It isn't every day a golfer has a double eagle. But for Ellis, it wasn't his first.

"I actually had one last summer," said the Senatobia native, a senior for the Rebels.

On Sunday he duplicated the feat and helped propel his Ole Miss team to a significant tournament win at the Linger-Longer Invitational at Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro, Ga.

His 218-yard second shot with a hybrid 3-iron on the par-five 14th hole came within minutes of teammate David Marino's eagle from the fairway at the par-four 13th.

The Rebels, who tied a school record with their fourth tournament victory of the year, have had some trouble finishing strong in their last few tournaments. On Sunday, that was not the case.

"We actually played well on the back nine all week," said Ross, who is in his second tenure as head coach at Ole Miss - now in his fourth season back after coaching the team for eight years from 1979-87.

But Sunday on those last nine holes, they made a statement, and all the nation's second-ranked team, Georgia, as well as several other highly ranked teams, could do was watch.

"We preached persistence," Ross said. "We've led some tournaments lately but hadn't finished. Today was different. We've been seeing some really neat things from our team, a lot of growth from our guys."

One of those neat things was Ellis' double eagle, one of the most rare feats in golf.

"I actually had too much club, and I tried to ease off a little," said Ellis, who finished the final round with a 72 to go along with previous rounds of 72 and 71 to tie for sixth place. "I felt like I hit the ball perfectly, it took one hop and went in the center of the cup."

Or so he was told by Ross and some bystanders who saw it, which included Marino and assistant coach Jonathan Dismuke.

"That was the first double eagle I've ever seen," said Dismuke, a Calhoun City native who was an All-SEC golfer at Auburn. "That was really special and helped us move on to the win."

The Rebels had moved out to a seven-shot lead on Friday with a season-low 277 and then maintained their lead Saturday with a 292.

Sunday's final round of 287 left them with an 856 total, their lowest of the year and five better than second-place Georgia (861).

Ellis now has four top-10 finishes this year and 14 for his career.

Marino, a senior and a Rhode Island native, had his best 54-hole tournament finish as a Rebel, taking third place with a 67-77-69—213. His first-round 67 was a career-low.

Freshman Jonathan Randolph, a native of Brandon, also tied for sixth, shooting a 69-74-72—215. It marked his fourth top-10 finish of the year, having played in all 10 events.

Junior Jesse Speirs, a Maine native and transfer from TCU, tied for 11th with a 69-74-74—217 for his sixth top-20 finish.

"This was our best victory in at least four years," Ross said, mentioning the field included several ranked teams in addition to the Rebels and Georgia, like Clemson and Tennessee-Chattanooga. "There's really good team chemistry and the guys are believing in themselves. We believe we can really build on this."

Ole Miss will be back in action April 7-8 as it hosts the Bank of America Intercollegiate at Reunion Golf Club in Madison.

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