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TOP TEAM(S): Stanford, Baylor (17-under 823)
TOP INDIVIDUAL: Brad Dalke (12-under 198)
ALSO ADVANCED: Pepperdine (835), Oklahoma (837), North Carolina (843)
JUST MISSED OUT: Georgia Tech (844), North Florida (845)
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BRAD DALKE WINS, GETS SOONERS TO NATIONALS: Two months ago, Grant Hirschman captured the Southern Highlands Collegiate – arguably college golf’s toughest regular season event – for a humongous win. How’d he even get there? Hirschman actually qualified for the Sooners’ fifth and final spot that week by one shot, edging out Blaine Hale and … Brad Dalke. That’s right, Dalke failed to make the starting lineup for an event in March; two months later, he’s a regionals champion.
Dalke, a sophomore, led the whole tournament, starting with a 5-under 65 to share the lead with Stanford’s Maverick McNealy and opening up a three-shot cushion thanks to a dazzling second-round 64. The final round was more subdued but just what Dalke needed – after birdieing two of his first three holes Wednesday at Stanford Golf Course, the sophomore settled into a 1-under 69 to finish at 12 under.
Now, he just had to wait and see if McNealy’s charge would fall short. The senior was going for his 12th career title at Stanford, a win that would break his tie with Tiger Woods and Patrick Rodgers for most victories as a Cardinal, and he fought hard. McNealy opened in eagle, followed with double bogey and then made four birdies from Nos. 3-15 to reach 4 under for the round as well as Dalke’s 12-under mark. Would McNealy ruin Dalke’s hopes? Not so much. Shockingly, the star senior double bogeyed 17 AND 18 to drop to solo third at 8 under. Baylor’s Cooper Dossey, a freshman, finished second at 9 under.
This victory is Dalke’s first career win in a college event and gave No. 3 seed Oklahoma the performance it needed to make it back to the NCAA Championship (the Sooners placed fourth at 3 under).
“It means so much to me to win this week at regionals,” Dalke said in a release. “I’ve been playing great golf for a while now, and I finally got it all together this week. Most importantly, I felt like I really helped the team advance to nationals, and that is the only reason we came here.”
This win also makes his last nine months even sweeter. At last summer’s U.S. Amateur, Dalke made it all the way to the final (where he fell to Curtis Luck). That tremendous run earned him a spot into the 2017 Masters and U.S. Open. Dalke, 19, completed his Augusta National appearance last month, missing the cut but having a blast nonetheless.
Dalke not being in the lineup for a tournament this spring wasn’t totally surprising, as he hadn’t been that sharp coming out of the winter break. Since the Masters, though Dalke’s produced his three best results of his 2016-17 season: T-10 at the Maxwell, T-9 at Big 12s and this win at regionals. He now moves on to the NCAA Championship with his Sooners – who also got good regionals contributions from Hirschman (T-17, 1 over), Hale (T-38, 6 over), Max McGreevy (T-38, 6 over) and Rylee Reinertson (T-53, 9 over). The Sooners will be looking to make match play again after a quarterfinals loss in 2016, and they’ll enter the proceedings at Rich Harvest Farms with Dalke as good as he’s been playing in some time.
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STANFORD, BAYLOR SHARE THE WEALTH: The host wasn’t greedy: Stanford was co-champions this week with Baylor. The Cardinal actually started the final round seven back of the Bears on Stanford’s home course. But the top-seeded Cardinal made up the entire margin Wednesday at Stanford (Calif.) Golf Course and appeared it might have been on the way to solo victory until McNealy’s double-double finish, as well as a double bogey on the penultimate hole from Viraat Badhwar. In the end, it was a 6-under 274 and a 17-under total. Baylor, the No. 2 seed, could only muster a 1-over 281, but that was enough to earn the Bears a share of the title – the first regionals win in school history. This Baylor squad has been making a lot of history this year, as earlier this spring the Bears reached No. 1 in the country for the first time in the program’s existence. This has all been done under the tutelage of head coach Mike McGraw. Dossey continued his high-flying ways as a freshman with rounds of 68, 66 and 67 in his solo second finish at 9 under. Matthew Perrine and Hunter Shattuck both finished in a tie for seventh at 3 under. For Stanford, McNealy’s solo third at 8 under led the way, with Franklin Huang and Brandon Wu (both T-4 at 4 under) close behind.
Baylor returns to the NCAA Championship, where the Bears finished 27th in 2016. Stanford will make its fourth straight appearance at nationals, looking to do far better than its 28th and 21st in 2016 and 2015, respectively.
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SHORT SHOTS: If the women can do it, why can’t the men? After the North Carolina women’s team jumped up four positions to rocket to the final position at the NCAA Women’s Championship out of the Athens Regional, the male Tar Heels essentially matched the group. The North Carolina men “only” jumped three spots Wednesday, but that was enough to get the Tar Heels the fifth and final spot to the NCAA Men’s Championship from this regional. North Carolina, the No. 6 seed, finished in 3-under 277, the second-best round of the day, to close out at 3 over – one shot ahead of sixth place. Ben Griffin (11th, 1 under) was UNC’s high finisher. … Pepperdine makes its first NCAA Championship since 2011. The fifth-seeded Waves were one of the most improved teams in the country this spring, and the results in Stanford helped prove that. A second-round 6-under 274 moved Pepperdine from a tie for sixth to solo third at 5 under. The Waves closed in 280 to finish at that place and number. Sahith Theegala, certainly comfortable in his ways, ties for fourth at 4 under thanks to a final-round 67. Roy Cootes, Clay Feagler and Joshua McCarthy all finish in the top 20 as well. … Georgia Tech, the No. 4 seed, finishes at 4 over, one shot short of a potential playoff for that final spot. The Yellow Jackets dropped from a tie for fifth at the beginning of the day. Seventh-seeded North Florida (seventh, 5 over) and eighth-seeded BYU (eighth, 12 over) also dropped from that T-5 at the opening of the day. … North Florida’s Travis Trace, who placed solo 10th at 2 under, is the individual to advance from this regional. While the Ospreys have made four trips to the NCAA Championship, Trace becomes the first player in program history to make it there as an individual.