Oregon def. Washington, 3-2:
It was fitting that the winner of the Oregon-Washington match came down to the match’s final pairing between the Ducks’ Eugene Wong and the Huskies’ Nick Taylor. The two shared Pac-10 Conference Player of the Year honors, and they grew up competing in junior golf in British Columbia, Canada.
The biggest lead for either player was 1 up. Taylor led most of the front nine, before losing hole Nos. 9 and 10 to give Wong a 1-up lead. With Wong still 1 up on the 18th green, Taylor had an 18-footer to force extra holes. His putt stopped left of the hole, and Wong two-putted to send the Ducks into the second round.
“I am glad Wong had the putter at the end,” said fourth-year head coach Casey Martin. “He has had an amazing year, and if anyone has to put it on the line you want Eugene doing it.”
Oregon also got wins from junior Jack Dukeminier and sophomore Andrew Vijarro.
“Everyone knew that they were going to have to play great golf,” Martin said. “The respect our team has for the Huskies is off the charts. We have played with them for a number of years and been beaten up by them a lot. My guys were motivated and knew what was at stake.”
Match play has not been good to Washington. The Huskies lost in the opening round of match play at the Inverness Club a year ago to Arkansas and recorded a 1-3 record at the Callaway Match Play Championship this past spring. A loss this year to the Oregon in the first round gives Washington a 1-5 match-play record in the past two years. Each of the Huskies’ losses has been by a 3-2 score.
“Disappointment for my seniors,” Washington head coach Matt Thurmond said. “They deserve to win.”
— Lance Ringler
• • •
Augusta State def. Georgia Tech, 3-2:
Augusta State wins the Peach Basket. Isn’t that what they give out to the team from the Peach State of Georgia that finishes the highest in the NCAA Championship?
Oh, well; it doesn’t matter. What does matter is the Jaguars are headed to the semifinals of this year’s championship after posting a nail-biting, down-to-the-last putt, 3-and-2 victory over state rival Georgia Tech on Friday at The Honors Course. Augusta State faces Florida State on Saturday morning.
With the victory, Augusta State ensured its best finish ever in the NCAA finals, which previously was fifth place in 2002 at Ohio State’s Scarlet Course.
“This means the world to our program,” Augusta State coach Josh Henry said. “We still have two steps to go, but we’ve gotten one step closer.”
What a match it was.
Carter Newman put Augusta State on the board first. He was 2 up after five holes and 4 up after nine before hanging on for a 1-up win over Paul Haley.
Georgia Tech quickly answered, however. Kyle Scott was 2 down with three holes to play, but won Nos. 16 and 17 with birdies and 18 with a par to edge Taylor Floyd, 1 up.
In the only match not to go to the 18th, Tech’s James White defeated Mitch Krywulycz, 2 and 1, to give the Yellow Jackets a 2-1 lead.
The tension level was about to get big-time intense.
Augusta State’s Patrick Reed and Tech’s Chesson Hadley, neither of whom led by more than 1 up all day, were coming to the 18th, with Reed 1 up.
Hadley’s approach shot landed 35 feet left of the hole and Reed answered by hitting to some 12 feet right of the pin, just on the edge of the green. Facing high-level pressure, Hadley drained the birdie putt to shift that pressure on Reed. The Jaguars sophomore, who was a semifinalist at the 2008 U.S. Amateur, answered by sinking the putt, followed by a huge fist pump and outburst of emotion.
“I felt I was putting well all day but coming up short at times,” Reed said. “On that last putt, I told myself to stay focused, hit my line and give it a little extra. But it was a battle all day, and winning like that and our team winning is something special.”
It was now 2-2, with Augusta State’s Henrik Norlander taking on Tech’s John Tyler Griffin, who was 2 down with two to play. Griffin won the 17th hole with a birdie to send the match to 18.
Norlander two-putted – the second close enough to be conceded – and Griffin just missed his 10-foot birdie putt that would have sent the match to extra holes.
“It has been a remarkable day,” Gregory said. “The scene around 18 was just unbelievable. I don’t think it could get more exciting than this.”
— Ron Balicki
• • •
Oklahoma State def. Stanford, 4-1:
Stroke-play medalist Oklahoma State became the first team in the history of this format to post a 4-1 victory. The top-seeded Cowboys cruised past Stanford, which won a 3-for-1 playoff Friday morning just to make match play.
Even though Oklahoma State won by a record margin, it was hardly an easy victory. Early in the back nine, the Cowboys trailed in three matches.
This match-play format is said to reward depth. Oklahoma State, arguably the deepest team in the country, won because of strong performances by its bottom three players.
Sean Einhaus, the Cowboys’ No. 5 player, beat Joseph Bramlett, 5 and 4. It was redemption for Einhaus, who shot 10-over 226 in stroke play; he was the only player not to shoot par or better for 54 holes at The Honors Course.
“I think it was just pure will,” Einhaus said. “I knew that I was going to win, and I wanted to win. After my stroke-play performance, I knew I owed the team something, so I just came out and fought.”
Oklahoma State’s No. 3 player, Kevin Tway, beat Stanford’s Sihwan Kim, 5 and 4, in a match of former U.S. Junior champs. Trent Whitekiller clinched the match for Oklahoma State with a 1-up victory over Andrew Yun. Whitekiller was 3 down through five holes to Yun, but rallied to help Oklahoma State avoid a repeat of last year’s early exit.
Last year, Oklahoma State won the NCAA Championship’s stroke play, only to lose to Georgia in the first round. The Cowboys were facing another tough first-round opponent this year: Stanford was the preseason No. 1 team in the country, and No. 4 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. With the victory, Oklahoma State advances to face Oregon in Saturday’s semifinals.
Friday’s showdown was a rematch of the sudden-death playoff at the 1995 NCAA Championship. Oklahoma State won that playoff over a Stanford team that included Tiger Woods.
Morgan Hoffmann collected Oklahoma State’s fourth point Friday when he rallied from a 3-down deficit to beat Stanford’s Steve Ziegler, 1 up.
— Sean Martin
• • •
Florida State def. Texas Tech, 4-1:
Florida State junior Drew Kittleson played one of the best rounds of the NCAA Championship in his match Friday against Texas Tech junior Nils Floren. Yet, Kittleson but could only start to relax after an eagle on No. 17, not long before the Seminoles closed out the Red Raiders, 4-1, to advance to the semifinals against Augusta State.
Kittleson made six birdies over the first 11 holes, and had a 3-up lead when the horn sounded for what would be a short weather delay. Floren, who just before the match was named a first team All-American, caught fire after the delay, making birdies on Nos. 14-16 to cut Kittleson’s lead to 1 up. On the par-5 17th, Kittleson, one of the longest players in the field, hit 5 iron to 25 feet and made the eagle putt to finally close out Floren, 2 and 1.
“I hit it that good every day; I just didn’t make putts,” said Kittleson, who finished 7 under through his 17 holes, ahead of the competitive course-record pace of 66.
At about the same time, FSU senior Seath Lauer softly dropped in a downhill 25-footer for birdie to beat Matt Smith, 2 up, and officially send the Seminoles to college golf’s Final Four.
“Thinking about getting some scissors and cutting the nets – I mean the flags,” said FSU freshman Michael Hebert, who hit his rescue club from 242 yards to 10 feet on No. 17 to all but end his match with redshirt-freshman Finley Ewing IV. Hebert “lagged it up there” for birdie and a 2-and-1 victory.
“We’re not done yet, but it feels good right now,” Hebert said.
Sophomore Brooks Koepka, at No. 53 the highest-ranked Seminole in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings, closed out his 2-up victory over senior Chris Ward with a two-putt par on 18.
“There is a confidence level, and they all have it with each other,” said FSU coach Trey Jones, who was fist-pumping his way around the course. “We’ll enjoy this one just for a brief time.”
For Texas Tech, the loss ended the team’s best season in more than 50 years, and one of the best stories of the tournament. On Thursday, the Red Raiders made a historic comeback, shooting an 8-under 280 to jump from 20th to seventh place and into the match-play field. Their previous best finish at the NCAAs was seventh in 1959.
“It’s disappointing,” Texas Tech head coach Greg Sands said. “We had our chances today and just missed way too many putts. You have to credit Florida State, because I thought they were outstanding all day long and they have a very solid team. Once the sting of this thing wears off a bit, we will look back and see what a great year we had.”