MUSCLE SHOALS, Ala. - Coaching in his final event after 18 seasons leading the UALR golf program, Wyn Norwood was voted the 2012 Sun Belt Conference Men's Golf Coach of the Year by his peers on Wednesday. Norwood wasn't the only Trojan honored by the league's coaches on the final day of the 2012 SBC Golf Championships, as Alfred Kerstis was named the Sun Belt Freshman of the Year.
"It choked me up. It really did. It was a great honor coming from those coaches," said Norwood on winning his sixth Sun Belt Coach of the Year award. "It was a very, very nice gesture on their part. I was certainly honored that they would consider me that way."
Kerstis entered the Sun Belt Tournament with a team-low 72.69 scoring average (7th best in the SBC) and four top-5 finishes as a true freshman. He was one of two Trojans to record a top-10 finish at the 2012 Sun Belt Conference Golf Championships, tying for ninth place at five-over par 221 (75-73-73).
"Alfred was certainly deserving of this honor. He got more and more consistent as the year went on, and his confidence level kept growing," said Norwood. "He has no quit in him. He got off to a horrible start yesterday and so many guys would have just thrown in the towel, but he fought back to almost get to even. He has a lot of fight in him and wants to learn and improve every time he goes out. I think he is going to become a great leader for this team."
Freshman Colby Benton was the top finisher for UALR, tying for sixth place with a four-over par 220 total after carding an even-par 72 in the final round. Top-10 finishes by Benton (77-71-72) and Kerstis helped the Trojans place fourth overall in the team standings.
"Those two freshmen really stepped up this year and it speaks highly for the future of this program," said Norwood. "I felt bad for Colby because he was so close to making the All-Conference team. The top four finishers get an automatic spot, and he was sitting right there at the end, but a kid from Denver in the final group made a late birdie to drop him down to sixth."
North Texas claimed the team championship after closing the event with a five-over par 293 at the par-72, 7,371-yard Fighting Joe Course at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at the Shoals. The Mean Green finished at nine-over par 873 (298-282-293) to earn an eight-stroke victory over second-place Middle Tennessee (298-289-294 - 881). Louisiana's Ragin' Cajuns placed third at 28-over par 892 (311-288-293), followed by the Trojans in fourth place at 34-over par 898 (308-293-297).
UNT's Ty Spinella led the event after each of the first two rounds, and held on to capture medalist honors by firing a one-under par 71 in the final round. Spinella was the only player to finish under par at the 54-hole event, posting a two-under par 214 total (71-72-71) to finish three-shots up on Middle Tennessee's Hunter Green (77-70-70 - 217).
UALR sophomore Luis Cedeno (77-76-76) and junior Nicklaus Benton (80-73-76) finished in a tie for 23rd place at 13-over par 229. Freshman Benjamin Etchebarne tied for 42nd place with a 237 total (79-77-81).
2012 All-Sun Belt Conference Team
Alfred Kerstis, UALR
Chun-Ji Kim, Denver
Phillip Fendt, Louisiana-Lafayette
Brandt Garon, Louisiana-Lafayette
Andrew Noto, Louisiana-Lafayette
Hunter Green, Middle Tennessee
Brett Patterson, Middle Tennessee
Rodolfo Cauzabon, North Texas
Carlos Ortiz, North Texas
Ty Spinella, North Texas
Tyler Klava, South Alabama
Ricky Casko, Troy
2012 Sun Belt Freshman of the Year
Alfred Kerstis, UALR
2012 Sun Belt Coach of the Year
Wyn Norwood, UALR