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Fricke’s sudden-death chip in gives Drexel a win

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Golf is a gentleman’s sport. Intertwined in its blue blood history, there’s an expected reverence for rules and a respect for the sanctity of the game.

Etiquette is king.

But sometimes, these rules must be ignored, and Drexel golf’s game Oct. 11 was absolutely one of those times.

Recall that the Drexel University golf team has been riding a hot streak. Last weekend at the Matthews Auto Collegiate Invitational, the Dragons set a school record for score to par in a 36-hole tournament, dissecting the Links at Hiawatha Landing in an 11-under effort. Freshman Connor Schmidt, who tied for third at the invitational, was named Colonial Athletic Association player of the week. It’s fair to say the team’s confidence was high, ever the X-factor in the mano-a-mano framework of match play.

So, entering the Explorer Match Play tournament at local North Hills Country Club, the team appeared poised to deliver another strong showing. In the stroke play portion of the event Oct. 10, they finished third out of a six team field, enough to qualify for the four school stroke play event on Oct. 11. Contributions were made from up and down the lineup, led by 147s from both senior Yoseph Dance and junior Aaron Fricke. Schmidt, despite not having his best stuff, was able to battle to an opening round 76 himself.

With that, the stage was set for a dramatic day. Based on the scores posted Oct. 10, the Dragons found themselves paired with host La Salle University, a matchup that they took advantage of early and often. Junior Adam Mistretta, sophomore Brendan Bacskai, and Fricke cruised to victories to clinch a 3-2 team win, moving on to face Fairleigh Dickinson University in the afternoon.

Once again, they turned to Fricke to lead the way, and he responded: a 3-2 win set the table for another from Connor Schmidt and a birdie-laden draw from Dance.

With the daylight fading, FDU refused to quit, fighting with their backs to the wall to square the match with two victories of their own to close out the day. This is when a quiet country club afternoon turned into an ending ripped right out of a storybook.

But who would get the nod for the sudden-death final hole? Would it be Schmidt, whose talent has flashed time and again over his early college career? Or Dance, whose experience would surely be an asset in such a pressure-filled moment? To Coach Ben Feld the decision was easy: go with the hot hand.

“I talked to [Assistant Coach] AJ [DiGennaro], and there wasn’t much of a discussion that Aaron was the one we wanted going out for us,” Coach Feld said.

The junior from Denver, Pennsylvania stepped into the box with the tournament on the line.

“I was pretty nervous, not having swung in a few hours,” Fricke said. “I hit a really good tee shot, and hit a great second shot that just rolled over the back of the green. I was pretty surprised.”

As the teams approached the green, the sun had all but set, masking the contour of the green.

“Me and coach kind of just thought it was going to be straight, and I pushed it out,” Fricke said.

But the onlooker wouldn’t have noticed it was mishit at all. Instead, under the glow of a nearby tractor’s headlights, the ball tracked perfectly into the cup, unleashing bedlam greenside and a social media craze. Vines ranging from “Aaron Fricke getting buckets” to the shot dubbed to Kanye West’s “Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 1” hit social media, getting picked up by the Golf Channel and Golf Digest.

Etiquette be damned.

Sometimes, when you’re playing as well as Adam Fricke and his teammates, it’s just time to celebrate.  Look for the Dragons to continue their hot streak Oct. 17 at the Elon University Phoenix Invitational in Elon, North Carolina.