NATIONAL CHAMPIONS!!

Jeff Kelley roars with excitement after sinking a 25 foot birdie putt on hole 18 to solidify Mesa's National Championship. (Photo by Aaron Webster)
Jeff Kelley roars with excitement after sinking a 25 foot birdie putt on hole 18 to solidify Mesa's National Championship. (Photo by Aaron Webster)

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By Aaron Webster

Mesa, AZ - The Bird is the word and the Birds are the National Champions.  

The Mesa Thunderbirds men's golf team climbed to the pinnacle of competition and captured the schools first men's golf national championship with a five stroke victory at Longbow Golf Club in Mesa, AZ.

Down by two strokes heading into the final day of play to Mississippi Gulf Coast CC, Mesa shot 15 birdies to past the Bulldogs and finish with a team tournament total of 1155.

Dean Harpe birdied four holes on the front nine alone to pace Mesa throughout the day.  Harpe shot a one-under-par (70) for the day.  Jacob Guess, Bradley Pottle and Jeff Kelley all shot 73's with Gage Grimes shooting a 75.  

"All the credit goes to my guys," said Head Mesa Coach John Guerrero, "they earned it."

For Guerrero, with all the many wins and national tournament appearences on both the men's and women's side, has accomplished the greatest prize of winning a national championship.

Taking the helm of the men's team in 2005, Guerrero led teams have finished within the top 10 seven times, claiming three third place finishes and a runner-up finish in 2014.  

Coach Guerrero was also honored as the NJCAA Coach of the Year, another new accomplishment to add to his many accolades.  

But one thing Coach Guerrero kept alluding to after it was all said and done was his players.  "They are great kids who kept grinding, I'm so happy for them and their families," said Guerrero.

Individually, all five Mesa players walked away as All-American's.  Dean Harpe, Jacob Guess and Jeff Kelley were named First Team All-Americans, Brad Pottle Second Team All-American and Gage Grimes with Honorable Mention All-American.

Kelley finished tied for third individually with a four day total of 287.  Dean Harpe was fifth was a 289 total, Jacob Guess finished sixth with a 290 total.  Guess also finished with the most pars for the tournament by an individual, shooting 54 pars out of 72 holes, a 72 percent average.  Bradley Pottle tied for ninth place with a 292 finish and Gage Grimes finished tied for 24th place with a 298 total.

The crowning finale of the tournament was the final putt by Jeff Kelley on hole 18.  With roughly a 25 foot putt, Kelley drained the birdie without blinking and then gave a tremendous roar to the on looking crowd who mimicked his excitement.  Mesa knew then they had achieved the dream.

For Mesa Community College athletics, this is their 19th National Championship in school history and the first for either golf programs.

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