Special to the Daily
After five years of considerable success, Barry Harwell announced on Friday his resignation as men's head golf coach at Clayton State. He is leaving the Laker program to take over as the head coach of the golf program at fellow Division II affiliate West Georgia in his hometown of Carrollton.
Clayton State Athletic Director Mason Barfield praised Harwell for his hard work and efforts in making the Clayton State men's golf program competitive again since his arrival in the summer of 2006.
"We are very grateful to Barry for taking over our golf program and taking it to another level," said Barfield, who will start a national search shortly to hire Harwell's replacement. "That includes the program's first ever conference championship and a Top 10 finish at the NCAA Tournament. I know he will do a great job at West Georgia as he works hard to bring the Wolves to same level as he did here at Clayton State."
After building the foundation during Harwell's first season in 2006-07, the next two seasons were definite "breakthrough" seasons for Clayton State men's golf.
The 2008-09 addition of Laker men's golf enjoyed one of the best seasons for the program in nearly a decade. Clayton State won one tournament in the spring - the Matlock Invitational in Lakeland, Fla. - and also enjoyed two second place finishes combined in the fall and spring.
The high point, however, was Clayton State's first ever Peach Belt Conference championship as the Lakers overcame a six-stroke deficit on the final nine holes to win the title five strokes. Individually, junior Wade Binfield became the second straight Clayton State player to win the individual Peach Belt Conference Tournament championship, firing a 6-under par 210. In addition, senior Will Wilcox became the Lakers' first ever Peach Belt Conference Player of the Year.
Despite a disappointing finish at the NCAA Division II South/Southeast Super Regional, Harwell's Lakers still finished 14th in the final PING/Nike Golf Division II Top 25 Coaches' Poll.
The 2007-08 addition of Clayton State men's golf under Harwell captured two team championships - the Southbridge Pirate Invitational and the Orchard Fall Invitational, as well as a runner-up finish to USC Aiken at the 2008 Peach Belt Conference Tournament. Individually, Wilcox also captured the program's first individual PBC championship with an 8-under par 206.
Harwell's Lakers followed up the strong PBC finish with a solid fourth-place finish in the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional, earning their first NCAA Division II National Championship berth since 1999.
Clayton State placed 10th overall at the 2008 NCAA Division II National after leading the field with a 7-under 273 during the first round. For the season, Clayton State was ranked in the Golf World/Nike Golf Division II Top 25 Coach's Poll, finishing 20th in the final ranking for the second-highest national ranking in the history of Laker men's golf.
Under Harwell, Clayton State produced eight individual tournament champions, plus a three-time Division II All-Southeast Region and a three-time Division II All-American. Wilcox became Clayton State's first ever Division II first team All-American in 2008 and the first Clayton State player to garner All-Peach Belt Conference honors since 2000. He repeated both honors again in 2009, becoming the only three-time All-American in the history of Clayton State men's golf.