2003: Merrick on mark in UCLA’s Pac-10 rout
That UCLA won the Pac-10 Men’s Championship April 30 on its home turf wasn’t such a surprise. But the Bruins’ margin of victory – 27 shots over Arizona – bewildered even coach O.D. Vincent.
“I knew we had a good chance,” Vincent said. “Our guys play this course (Oakmont Country Club) every Saturday as an optional practice day. But to pull away like we did – well, who would have imagined?”
UCLA’s John Merrick received a lion’s share of the glory with his course- record, final-round 63, giving him a 10-shot victory over defending champion Jim Seki (73) of Stanford and Brady Stockton (69) of Arizona State.
The Bruins were familiar with the nuances of the short (6,736 yards) yet tricky Oakmont layout, which has small, fast, sloping greens that left many players puzzled. UCLA’s final-round, 2-under 358 left the Bruins at 1 under (1,439) for the tournament. Arizona was second at 26-over 1,466.
Merrick improved each day, shooting 74-70-69-63 (12 under). His 63 bettered the course record by one on the 81-year- old layout, and it included three eagles, two of which came on the 17th and 18th holes, the dramatic finishing touches on an inward 29.
“John has one of the purist swings I’ve ever seen and a very steady day-to-day tempo,” Vincent said of Merrick, a junior from Long Beach. “I’ve wondered why John hasn’t won more tournaments. But I think this win and the fashion in which he won will give him the confidence to further elevate his game.”
Big Ten: A year ago, the Minnesota men’s team caught fire in the postseason, winning the Big Ten Championship and coming from behind to capture the NCAA Championship. The Gophers, with all five players returning from last year, also started this postseason in good form, capturing their second consecutive Big Ten title.
Minnesota started the final round May 4 six shots behind Illinois. But the Gophers quickly cut into the lead with five birdies on the 530-yard, par-5 first hole at Indiana University Golf Course.
Minnesota seized the lead midway through the back nine and cruised to a six-shot victory with a final-round 7-under 277 for a 14-under 1,122 total. Illinois (289) finished second at 1,128.
Matt Anderson of Minnesota won the individual title by a shot over three players with an 8-under 276 total.
Minnesota coach Brad James – who stayed at home to be with his wife, Tanya, who was expecting the couple’s first child – followed the final round via the Internet and updates from assistant coach Andrew Tank. James’ wife gave birth to a girl, Sydney, early Sunday.
Big 12: Texas shot a final-round 17-over-par 297 on April 29 to post a four-shot victory at the Big 12 Conference Championship at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla.
The Longhorns, who finished at 54-over 894, trailed Oklahoma by two shots entering the final round, but rallied for their second consecutive league title and their first team victory of the year. Oklahoma State (898), led by medalist Hunter Mahan (73-67-68), was second and Oklahoma (899) third.
National Minority Championship: Bethune-Cookman scored a come-from-behind, 12-shot victory May 4 over Florida A&M at the PGA Golf Club’s North Course in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Senior James Douris (66) and junior Luke Miller (64) led the Daytona Beach, Fla., school to its third title in five years. Bethune-Cookman finished the 54-hole event at 844.
FAMU senior Jay Sandhu shot a final-round 67 to capture medalist honors with a 10-under 206.
Texas-Pan American won the women’s title with a three-day total of 962, nine ahead of Bethune-Cookman. Texas-Pan American freshman Stefanie Maynard was medalist at 11-over 227.
– Lance Ringler and wire reports contributed