STILLWATER, Okla. – Patrick Reed wanted nothing more than to be playing in the last match on the final day with the NCAA Championship on the line.
“I wanted that to happen last year, but I won my match early,” said the Augusta State junior. “So this year I wanted that to happen so bad. I wanted it (team championship) to come down to me.”
It did on Sunday when Augusta State faced Georgia in the title match at Karsten Creek.
And Reed, who played these last two seasons for the Jaguars after transferring from Georgia after his freshman year, came through once again.
When he defeated Bulldogs senior Harris English, 2 and 1, it gave this small university its second consecutive NCAA golf title and enabled the Jags to break a 26-year drought for back-to-back winners. The last team to win two national crowns in a row was Houston, in 1984-85.
“I was determined to finish undefeated in match play (he won all three of his matches last year as well),” said Reed, who will skip his senior season to turn pro. He is playing this week at the PGA Tour’s FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tenn., on a sponsor exemption.
“I just have so many emotions running through me right now,” said Jaguars coach Josh Gregory, who is leaving Augusta State to become head coach at his alma mater, SMU. “I am so proud of every one of these guys. We’ve been like family these last few years. They mean so much to me. I’m happy for them, happy for the city of Augusta, happy for our university.”
Georgia got on the board first when Bryden MacPherson won holes 7, 8 and 9 with pars, 11 with a bogey and 12 with a birdie on his way to beating Olle Bengtsson, 6 and 4.
Augusta State quickly squared things as Carter Newman, the hero of the previous day’s win over host Oklahoma State, won four of the first six holes and cruised past T.J. Mitchell, 7 and 5.
“Carter has been Mr. Captain Clutch for us in this postseason,” Gregory said. “He was huge at regionals and won all three of his matches here.”
Things then started to get close and tense.
Russell Henley put Georgia back on top as he never trailed, was 3 up after 10 and went on to defeat Henrik Norlander, 3 and 2.
Augusta State came right back as Mitch Krywulycz took advantage for a four-bogey start by Hudson Swafford to go 4 up. But Swafford came back and was only 1 down after nine. Krywulycz won 12 and 14 with birdies, lost 16 to Swafford’s birdie, and closed it out on 17 when the two halved with bogeys. Krywulycz made an outstanding up-and-down after hitting his approach shot in the water.
That left Reed and English as the only match left on the course and the one that would determine which part of the Peach State would claim the golden championship trophy.
Reed went 1 up with a par at No. 4, but English made birdie at No. 5 to square things. Reed again took the lead at the 10th, winning the hole with a bogey and then went 2 up with a par at the 13th. The match ended at the par-4 17th, considered by many the most difficult hole at Karsten Creek, and it showed why.
Reed was in the left rough; English the right rough off the tee. English pulled his approach shot into the water; Reed left his on a slope short of the green. English hit his fourth shot some 30 feet past the hole, only to have Reed have his chip shot roll across and over the green.
Reed then chipped to about 6 feet. After English left his fifth shot within tap-in range, Reed rolled his to the same and the match ended with both making double-bogey 6.
“That was maybe the first time in my life I tried to lag a putt up there for a two-putt,” Reed said.
Georgia coach Chris Haack praised his Bulldogs for their effort, not only in the final match but the entire week.
“I’m not disappointed in these guys,” Haack said. “They gave us a lot of thrills this week. We made a good ol’ fashion run at (Augusta State) but came up just short. But there’s a lot of guys, teams out there who would like to be in our position.
“The hardest part right now is seeing our big three (seniors English, Henley and Swafford) go,” Haack said. “They have been such a positive for our program, and they certainly brought a lot of joy to my life these last four years.”
Since Houston won two back-to-back titles under coach Dave Williams, only three coaches have won more than one NCAA title: Mike Holder at Oklahoma State, Buddy Alexander at Florida and Haack.
“To join that group is something very special for me,” Gregory said. Then with a big smile added, “I’m just not that good a coach.”
Tell that to the other 29 teams that were at the 2010 NCAA at the Honors Course or the 29 on hand this week at Karsten Creek. There may be room for some serious argument.