Sparks wins UNA Spring Classic

Junior Austin Sparks prepares to swing at the TVA Community Credit Union Invitational Oct. 20. Sparks earned his first career win at the UNA Spring Classic at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Ford City March 29.

Junior Austin Sparks earned his first career win for the UNA golf team at the Spring University Golf Classic at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Ford City March 29.

The golf team, which is No. 12 in the Golfstat Men’s Division II National poll, finished second in the tournament, as No. 9 Lee University Flames took home the victory.

The team always knew it was capable of playing at a high level, said UNA golf coach Jason Vaughn.

“We are peaking at the right time,” Vaughn said. “I have known all along we can compete with these guys.”

The Lions roared back from a six-shot deficit entering the final round with Lee to force a playoff.

“(Coming back from behind) gave us a lot of confidence,” Sparks said. “Our top five haven’t played well at the same time yet.”

Vaughn said he credits work ethic and preparation for Sparks’ win.

“He’s worked very hard at getting better at the small things,” Vaughn said. “He does the work beforehand to prepare for a tournament. I am ecstatic for him.”

Sparks shot 72-65-74 to finish in a tie for first, forcing a one-hole playoff with Griffin Brown from Limestone College. Sparks took advantage of the par-five first hole by making birdie and notching his first collegiate victory.

“I played well in the first round, I just had a bad finish in the last three holes,” Sparks said. “I was able to eagle my second hole in round two, and I just played solid from there.”

Junior Forrest Knight shot a final round 67 to finish in third place, joining Sparks on the all-tournament team.

The Lions now turn their attention toward the postseason.

“We want to win every tournament, but our goal is to win conference,” Vaughn said.

Robert Trent Jones in Ford City will play host to the conference tournament April 17-19. Sparks said he knows how important it is to play at home.

“It was huge for us knowing we are back at (Robert Trent Jones) for conference,” he said. “Some top teams haven’t seen the course yet, so that gives us a big advantage.”

UNA tees off April 4 for its next tournament at the Argonaut Invitational in Pensacola, Florida.