NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. — Jack Ritchay was the last St. Thomas (Minn.) golfer on the course during the last round of his college career Friday and the former Green Bay Notre Dame standout make his final hole special.
The senior birdied the 415-yard ninth hole on the Champion Trace Course at Keene Trace Golf Club to finish off a final-round 77 and — more importantly — boost the Tommies out of a deadlock with Rutgers-Camden and into sole possession of 15th place at the NCAA Division III Championship. Middleton native Emmet Herb did a lot of the heavy lifting for St. Thomas on the final day of the 72-hole tournament with a 70 to finish in a tie for 15th as the Tommies fired their low round of the week (303) and move up two spots, finishing 1,236 total to finish 62 shots behind champion Illinois Wesleyan.
"Walking off of (No.) 18, it was relieving because I knew that I had left everything I had out there," Ritchay wrote in a text to Wisconsin.golf. "I also found out that the birdie I made put us in solo 15th so it was a little bit of a consolation prize to do that for our team. I told our coach this after that if you would’ve told me I would average just over 75 (strokes) per round this week I would have been so excited. For me, to get top 30 in this big of an event shows me that all the hours I put in over the years was worth it."
Ritchay, who finished fifth in the field this week in birdies, picked up four more Friday to give him 15 for the week. Unfortunately for the St. Thomas senior, he also had three double-bogeys and three bogeys on the day.
Herb, meanwhile, overcame more troubles off the tee but was able to break par for the first time all week with a 2-under 70. He birdied the par-5 14th hole only to give the shot right back with a bogey on the par-5 17th hole.
After making the turn in even-par, however, Herb caught fire on the back nine. He birdied Nos. 2, 4 and 6 to get to 3-under and stayed there until a bogey at the par-4 17th knocked him out of a five-way tie for 11th place.
"I was pretty horrendous off the tee, but they had some tees moved up and I drew some good lies," Herb said via text message to Wisconsin.golf. "I didn’t hit a fairway until a 3-wood on my 11th hole (No. 2) but I was able to hit each of the first nine greens in regulation. I missed a lot of good looks and was able to take advantage of getting to the green in two on both (Nos.) 2 and 6 for birdies. I had two rough days but all-in-all to come away with two rounds under par and a top-15 finish was promising after struggling at nationals last year. Hopefully, it gives us the edge to be able to use this experience for next year."
While Herb looked ahead to his senior season, Ritchay looked back on an eventful one of his own — especially the weather-related challenges this spring — and concluded he will miss the time he spent at St. Thomas.
"Closing out my career like this it wasn’t what we wanted as a team," Ritchay wrote. "But to finish it off with these guys and coaches I couldn’t have asked for a better college program to be apart of. Everyone involved made everyday fun — even in the sleet and cold."