2002: College - Williamson, Purdue rebound at Central
Little Rock, Ark.
Purdue senior and first-team All-American candidate Lee Williamson wasn’t feeling too well following the Big Ten Conference Championship earlier this month. None of his teammates were pleased with themselves, either.
Williamson closed the tournament with rounds of 77-77 – his worst back-to-back rounds of the season – and tied for 27th.
“I wasn’t very happy shooting 10 over the last two days, but I told myself not to let it shake my confidence,” Williamson said.
Purdue led the tournament through 65 holes only to falter down the stretch and finish third, five strokes behind eventual champion Minnesota.
“We were down after the Big Ten, but we knew we had another chance to prove ourselves at regionals,” said Purdue coach Devon Brouse.
The Boilermakers redeemed themselves at the demanding Pleasant Valley Country Club last week. Led by Williamson, who was the individual medalist, Purdue finished the NCAA Central Regional May 18 as co-champion with Oklahoma State. The Boilermakers, who improved to No. 19 in the Golfweek/ Sagarin Rankings, shot a closing 8-over-par 296 for a 1-over 865 total. Oklahoma State, ranked No. 5 nationally, shot 9-over 297 the final day.
It came down to the final hole. Purdue, thanks to a Williamson birdie, played the 18th hole in 1 under, while Oklahoma State, the leader after each of the first two rounds, played the hole in 2 over. It was Williamson’s birdie that enabled the Boilermakers to share team honors.
The top 10 teams among the field of 27 and the low two individuals who are not members of those teams advanced to the NCAA Division I Men’s Championship May 29-June 1 at Ohio State’s Scarlet course in Columbus, Ohio.
Williamson topped the individual leaderboard at 7-under 209, shooting 70-67 to go with his closing 72. He won by two over teammate Chris Mayson (73-65-73) and TCU’s Brett Guetz (68-72-71).
Southern Methodist’s Franklin Hatchett and Northwestern’s Tom Johnson tied for fifth at 213 and were the two low individuals to advance to the finals.
“The conditions were tough out there today,” said Williamson, who has played 15 rounds at the Scarlet Course and this spring shot 68 there during the Kepler Intercollegiate. “The wind blew pretty good and the pins were in some tough positions. I figured if I could keep it around par, I might have a chance. I made some good saves coming in and then made the birdie at 18. This is huge for me and the team. This will give us some confidence going into nationals.”
Finishing third behind Oklahoma State and Purdue was No. 32-ranked Tulsa, which closed with 297 for 12-over 876. This will mark Tulsa’s first trip to the national finals since 1995. Last year, Tulsa missed advancing by one shot at regionals.
Also advancing were Illinois (879), North Carolina State (880), Toledo (881), Baylor (882), Virginia Tech (885), TCU (885) and Colorado (886).
“I’ve been to enough of these tournaments to know anything can happen,” said TCU coach Bill Montigel, whose team was seeded No. 1 in the regional. “Nothing is given anymore with as much parity as there is right now in college golf.”
Missing out for the nationals by one shot were Kansas and Oklahoma. The Sooners were fourth after two rounds, but struggled the final day with a 22-over 310.
“Obviously we’re disappointed that we won’t be going to Columbus,” said Oklahoma coach Jim Ragan. “We had a good season, and we played some awfully good golf at times. Unfortunately, we’ve had a couple occasions as of late where we didn’t get it done in the last round, and today was one of those days.”
It marked the second consecutive year Purdue tied for first at the Central Regional. Last year, at Karsten Creek in Stillwater, Okla., Purdue was in a three-way tie (with Oklahoma and Kent State).
“This is a real tribute to our players,” said Brouse. “We shook off the Big Ten and came back strong. We got off to a slow start (in the final round), but played the back nine in 1 under. I can’t say enough or how proud I am of the way we hung in there.
“We’ve really worked hard and have gradually improved all season. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting closer. This is going to give us a lot of confidence going into nationals. We’ve had fair success at the Scarlet course, and I know we’ll be looking forward to it.”
For Oklahoma State, this is the fourth time the Cowboys have finished first since regional play was instituted in 1989, but the first time since 1997. This will be Oklahoma State’s 56th consecutive appearance at the NCAA finals.
Pleasant Valley was a good tune-up course for the nationals, said Oklahoma State coach Mike Holder.
“Ohio State is a lot like this course, so this was good preparation for nationals,” said Holder, whose Oklahoma State teams have won eight NCAA titles, including victories the last three times the championship was played at the Scarlet layout (1980, ’87 and ’95).