TOLEDO, Ohio — It will be Arkansas clashing with Texas A&M Saturday morning at Inverness Club to decide the 2009 NCAA championship.
Both teams advanced to the title match with identical 3-1-1 victories Friday in the semifinals. Ninth-ranked Arkansas defeated second-ranked Georgia while No. 14 Texas A&M ended the Cinderella dreams of No. 43 Michigan.
“This feels so great,” said third-year Razorback coach Brad McMakin. “I’m just so proud of these kids.
“Georgia had a huge and emotional win this morning (beating top-ranked and top-seeded Oklahoma State on the final hole) and maybe we caught them a little off. But my guys battled and played hard and this is a tribute to them and all their hard work. Now we have to see if we can bring that (championship) trophy home.”
The best Arkansas has ever finished at the national championship was fourth in 1994. McMakin’s best NCAA finish was ninth as head coach of Lamar before he took over the Razorback reigns.
Last year, Texas A&M finished 12th at the NCAAs, the Aggies’ best showing in 26 years. Now they’re one win away from taking home college golf’s biggest prize.
“This is so exciting,” said A&M coach J.T. Higgins. “It was a great match out there this afternoon. My hat goes off to Michigan. They kept fighting and we kept fighting. It was like punch, counter punch. I just think this was a great day for college golf.”
For Arkansas, Jamie Marshall defeated Adam Mitchell, 1-up; Jason Cuthbertson downed Harris English, 2 and 1; and David Lingmerth turned back Hudson Swafford, 3 and 2.
Georgia’s lone win came when Russell Henley defeated Ethan Tracy, 2 and 1. The last match between Georgia’s Brian Harman, the hero of the morning match, and Andrew Landry was deemed halved after the Razorbacks notched the all-important third team point.
It was only fitting that Texas A&M senior Matt Van Zandt clinched the winning point for the Aggies. Van Zandt was the non-counting score for the three rounds of stroke play and suffered a loss in his morning match.
His match in the afternoon against Bill Rankin turned into a classic. Van Zandt was 2 up with three to play, but Rankin charged back and won Nos. 16 and 17. He sank a crucial 12-footer for par on 17.
On 18, both players drove into the right rough. Rankin’s approach shot went over the green, while Van Zandt hit his 96-yard gap wedge approach to 20 feet. Rankin’s chip went long and off the green and his next chip, which slid right by the hole, settled 15 feet away. At that point, Rankin conceded Van Zandt’s putt and the Aggies were headed to the final match.
“Right now I’m just relieved,” Van Zandt said shortly after the match. “This is a dream. What I just faced (at 18) is what you dream about, what you practice for. What has happened this week just shows you how much of a team sport golf is (in college).”
Also producing semifinal wins for the Aggies were Andrea Pavan, who was 6 up after seven holes and cruised to an 8-and-7 win over Alexander Sitompul, and Bronson Burgoon, who never trailed on his way to beating Lion Kim, 4 and 3.
The Wolverines got a win from Nick Pumford, who defeated Conrad Shindler, 2 and 1. The final match between Texas A&M’s John Hurley and Matt Thompson was halved. They were all square playing No. 18 when Van Zandt secured the clinching point.
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The championship match pairings:
10 a.m. — Jamie Marshall, Arkansas, vs. Conrad Shindler, Texas A&M.
10:09 — Jason Cuthbertson, Arkansas, vs. Matt Van Zandt, Texas A&M
10:18 — Ethan Tracy, Arkansas, vs. John Hurley, Texas A&M
10:27 — David Lingmerth, Arkansas, vs. Andrea Pavan, Texas A&M
10:36 — Andrew Landry, Arkansas, vs. Bronson Burgoon, Texas A&M