EUGENE, Ore. – Gunn Yang was not at all convinced something special was about to happen as his ball rolled toward the hole.
“One of the guys from the crowd yelled, ‘Get in the hole!’ ” Yang said. “And I was like, there’s no chance it’s going in.”
Luckily for the San Diego State sophomore, he was dead wrong. The ball trickled right-to-left with perfect speed into the cup for an albatross – a 2 that put the Aztecs ahead, and eventually over the top, in their NCAA Albuquerque Regional playoff with Texas A&M for a spot in the NCAA Championship.
The exact details of the shot were pretty remarkable. At 218 yards, it certainly wasn’t the longest second shot ever jarred. But Yang was actually in the right rough on that first hole at the University of New Mexico’s Championship Course. He hit 7-iron from a flyer lie with a downwind breeze (with a hint of right-to-left) at a pin four yards from the right edge of the green. His ball, at about two yards right and seven yards short of the hole, actually landed on a downslope and somehow did so softly.
“I don’t know how that happened,” Yang said.
Explanation or not, the ball proceeded to roll right in. Ryan Donovan, San Diego State’s head coach, was right next to Yang and got excited in the moment but quickly calmed down at the realization the playoff was still going. He could celebrate later after the Aztecs’ 5-under total on the hole trumped the Aggies’ 2 under to win the playoff.
Funny we should mention Donovan. The coach noted that the team actually hadn’t played that hole well all tournament and he suggested to Yang that he aim his shot 20 yards left of the pin. Yang said he then told Donovan he wanted to instead aim it five yards left of the flag and cut it. Although, the conversation might have gone down differently than that…
“I don’t think he told me he was going to be more aggressive. He just ‘agreed’ with my suggestion and said, ‘OK, that sounds good, Coach, ‘ ” Donovan said, with a laugh.
Yang made the contact he wanted on the shot, and the flyer lie he expected materialized. But, as he noted, he wasn’t exactly intending it to land two yards right of the pin.
“I pushed it a little bit, and the wind brought it in right-to-left,” Yang said. “I thought it was a little bit too far right, more toward the right edge of the green.”
It ended up OK. Yang had never before scored an albatross. He only has one career hole-in-one, courtesy of a 9-iron at Miami Beach Golf Club’s par-3 third hole in a practice round for the 2014 South Beach International Amateur.
Yang opened the NCAA Championship on Friday with a 5-over 75 and currently sits in a tie for 115th. He has struggled much of the spring, even not making the lineup for the Mountain West Championship. But his 10th-place finish at regionals and the closing hole-out meant the world.
“I couldn’t really help out too much this semester, so I felt bad,” Yang said. “But in the end, I did something for the team.”