Joey Marino called it a “crazy year.”
As in, crazy good.
Nova Southeastern University set a program record with three national team titles this school year – women’s swimming, men’s basketball and men’s golf.
The sixth-seeded golf team, coached by Marino – son of NFL legend Dan Marino – capped NSU’s year by winning its third-ever NCAA Division II national championship last week in Warren, Ohio, beating top-seeded Oklahoma Christian, 3-2, in the final round of match play.
NSU started match play by defeating third-seeded and 2022 national champion Lee University (Tennessee), 3-2 in the quarterfinals. NSU then beat second-seeded Barry University, 3-2, in the semifinals.
Beyond its three national championship teams, NSU also finished second in women’s golf and in women’s tennis, and its softball squad made it to the College World Series for the first time, finishing seventh.
In addition, NSU won 13 individual national titles –11 in women’s swimming, one in men’s swimming and one in women’s golf.
“When other (NSU sports teams) have success, it makes it feel that much more achievable for everyone else on campus,” said Marino, a 33-year-old father of four. “You just feel that any team up and down the (NSU) hallway, can win a national title.”
The Sharks golf team was led by Will O’Neill and Michael Hay – who both made first-team All-Sunshine State Conference. NSU’s Joseba Torres and Josep Serra made the second team.
O’Neill, a New Jersey native who is a graduate transfer from Georgetown, was one of three Sharks to also make the All-South Region team. The others were Hay, who is a senior from England; and Torres, a junior from Spain.
Hay and Torres are set to return to NSU next season, but Serra, a sophomore from Spain, is transferring to Mississippi State.
For Marino, this is his first national title. The Sharks won golf national titles in 2012 and 2015, and he arrived at NSU in 2016 as an assistant coach. He became NSU’s head coach for the 2018-2019 season, and his squad made its breakthrough this year.
“We were consistent all season,” Marino said. “It seems like every week we finished in the top three, which showed me that our team’s game travels well, no matter the course or the competition.”
Even so, the Sharks nearly had their season end at the South Regionals, where only the top six teams advance. Fortunately for the Sharks, NSU shot six-under as a team on the final day, moving from eighth place to third.
“Will (O’Neill) shot five-under on that last day of regionals, and he got us through,” Marino said. “As a graduate student, he was older and more mature than the rest of our guys, and he became a good leader for us.”
At nationals, Marino said the biggest challenge was getting past Barry, a matchup that came down to the last hole.
That matchup featured Barry’s Nicolas Quintero, a 2022 All-American, against NSU’s Daniel Celestino. Marino said Quintero’s average this year was three strokes better than Celestino. Yet, Celestino made par on the final hole to clinch the victory for NSU.
Marino said that fifth and final starting spot in the lineup – which is where Celestino found himself in that crucial matchup – had rotated between several golfers this year.
“If you had told me at the start of the year that Daniel would be in that key role, I would’ve been surprised,” Marino said.
“Against Barry, he had a four-stroke lead with about five holes left, and he was losing momentum to put it nicely.
“But he held on for an unbelievable win.”
NSU, though, had an under-the-radar advantage. Ryan Jamison, who led NSU to its two previous national titles, is now the caddy for PGA regular Justin Suh. Jamison had hired Marino as his NSU assistant in 2018, and the two men still keep in touch.
“We talked a bit more than normal once we got to match play,” Marino said. “We use stroke play the rest of the season. So, it was nice to have a national championship coach such as Ryan to lean on for insights on how to prepare the team for match play.”
Dan Marino’s son returning NSU’s golf program to a national championship by leaning on a PGA caddy?