WOODSTOCK, Ga. — California had just finished shooting a tournament-best 4-under 276 in Tuesday’s final round of the Ping/Golfweek Preview at the Capital City Club Crabapple course.
That gave the Golden Bears a 54-hole total of 5-over 845. The final wave was next and featured host team Georgia Tech, which stood at 3 over for the tournament.
But Tech still had to make its way through the four finishing holes, the toughest stretch on the par-70, 7,248-yard course.
“If Georgia Tech can play those last four holes in plus one or better, they deserve to win,” said veteran Cal coach Steve Desimone as his team grabbed a quick lunch. “Those are four daunting holes.”
The Yellow Jackets didn’t finish the final four in 1 over or lower. They did, however, do it in 2 over and the end result showed Cal and Georgia Tech – which also closed with an impressive 276 – tying for first-place honors at 845.
“I don’t know if we can play any better than we did today,” Desimone said when it was all settled. “I’m just so proud of our guys. They really came through today. They hit a lot of good shots and made some key putts.
“We have a long flight home,” said Desimone, who was rushing to the airport to make that flight. “But I’ll tell you this, we’ll be going with some smiles.”
Cal opened the current season earlier this month with a victory at the Gopher Invitational, while Georgia Tech kicked off its campaign with a most disappointing tie for 11th at the Carpet Capital Classic, which it also served as host team.
“I’m really proud of my guys,” said Tech coach Bruce Heppler. “To come back like this after the way we played at Carpet Capital says a lot. We put together three solid rounds this week and I know we’ll take a ton of positive things out of this week.
“I’ve been involved a a lot of Preview tournaments over the years at Tech and I think we’ve finished second like four times,” Heppler said. “So now we at least have a tie for first and that’s wonderful. I feel we really needed this tournament and the result we had.”
Defending NCAA champion Texas, which got it to 9 under on the day after 13 holes, played that brutal final stretch in 9 over, but the even-par 280 gave the Longhorns a 13-over 853 total and enabled them to finish T-3 with first-round leader UNLV, which closed with a 286.
Second-round leader UCLA, making it’s 2012-13 season debut, struggled the last day with a 288 and finished at 14-over 854 to tie for fifth with Washington (283), winners earlier this month in its own Husky Invitational.
San Diego State senior Tom Berry went wire-to-wire and claimed his maiden college victory. After playing the first two rounds (67-69) without a bogey, Berry made three of them the last day, but his 2-over 72 left him at 2-under 208 for the championship.
He made his first bogey at the short (315 yards) par-4, fifth hole when he three-putted, made his lone birdie of the day at No. 7, then had back-to-back bogeys at 15 and 16.
“I missed a couple of greens coming in and had some dicey lies (at 15 and 16),” Berry said. “I just had to take my medicine and move on and finish out the best I could.
“Overall, for the week, I played good, solid golf,” said the Englishman. “I drove the ball well, which you really have to do out here, and my short game, chipping and putting, was extremely good.
“I know I’ll take a lot of positives out of this week. And hopefully we’ll be coming back here in May (for the NCAA Championship) so this would be a big confidence boost for me.”
Berry was in the fifth group out off the first tee the final day. When he finished at 2 under, there were two players one shot back and four others only two behind.
All he could do was sit and wait. But he couldn’t even do that as San Diego State had a 5:10 p.m. flight home out of Atlanta and the team left long before it was officially over.
While there were plenty of challengers, his score stood up. Berry won by two strokes over eight players who tied for second at even-par 210. This list featured California’s Max Homa (69), who made a crucial birdie on the final hole, and Michael Weaver (69), runner-up last month at the U.S. Amateur.
They were joined by Washington’s Cheng-Tsung Pan (69) and Chris Williams (69), the world’s No. 1 amateur, New Mexico’s Gavin Green (72), Georgia’s Nick Reach (67), and UNLV’s Kevin Penner (70).
Rounding out the eight was Georgia Tech’s Seth Reeves, who closed with a tournament-best, 4-under 66. Just like his Yellow Jacket team, what a turnaround it was for Reeves from the Carpet Capital, where he shot in the 80s two days and finished tied for 76th in the 78-player field.
“My first two rounds this week (73-71) I just wasn’t hitting it very well off the tee,” Reeves said. “I put a new Ping driver and 3-wood in my bag for the last round and it made all the difference in the world. I really drove the ball great today.”
That was evident on the 315-yard fifth hole and 379-yard seventh hole. His tee shot at No. 5 when just over the green and he chipped in from 30-feet away for eagle. His tee shot at No. 7 landed in a greenside bunker and he got up-and-down for birdie.
His other birdies came at Nos. 3, 9, 11 and 12 while he made a trio of bogeys at holes 6, 8 and 13.
But the key holes may just as well been the final two, both par 4s. At 17 he two-putted from 50 feet, sinking a 6-footer to save par. At the 18th, he did the same from 80 feet.
“I played so poorly in our first tournament and I struggled a bit the first two days this week,” Reeves said. “But here, I really tried to keep my emotions in check and stay patient. I had been swinging well and I just knew something good was coming and it did today. I’m sure this will give me a lot of confidence for the rest of the fall and beyond.”