2004: Sun Devils hit stride in Vegas

Las Vegas

With the postseason less than two months away, college coaches are getting serious about their game plans, their lineups and their teams’ levels of performance.

In this important time of year, Arizona State coach Randy Lein wore a big smile March 14 after the Southern Highlands Collegiate Championship.

The Sun Devils showed they are ready for the stretch run when they shot 16-under-par 848 to edge Florida, the No. 1 team in the Golfweek/ Sagarin rankings.

“This is a big win for us,” Lein said. “Early on, you try to get a feel for who is going to play and what your best team chemistry will be. But this is the time of year when you want to start settling in and get things going looking ahead toward the postseason.

Arizona State earned its two-stroke victory after taking a second-round lead at 21 under and shooting 5-over 293 in the final round. Florida started the final day at 18 under and closed with 292.

Clemson, the 2003 NCAA champion, had the best final round at even-par 288 and finished third at 5-under 859. Georgia shot 1-under 863 and was the only other team in the field of 15 to finish under par.

“It was a close battle all the way, but I think that makes it even better,” Lein said. “And to go up against a talented team like Florida you really get to see how your guys handle pressure.”

Three Sun Devils – Chez Reavie, Jesse Mueller and defending NCAA champion Alejandro Canizares – tied for sixth at 5-under 211. Niklas Lemke tied for 18th at 1-under 215.

Florida senior Camilo Villegas won the individual title for the second time in three years.

With a final-round 69, Villegas, a three-time All-American, captured his first college title since the Atlanta Intercollegiate last May. Villegas finished at 11-under 205, one better than Bill Haas of Wake Forest and two in front of Ryan Moore of host UNLV. Haas and Moore each bogeyed their final hole, the par-5 ninth, which played as the easiest hole on the course all three rounds.

“I have been playing well and this week I hit a lot of good shots and putted very well,” said Villegas. “I didn’t make many mistakes and that was the key. It’s been awhile since I’ve won so this makes me feel good and should give me some confidence for the rest of the spring.

“But . . . what I need to do is keep playing the best that I can each time out and do whatever it takes for us to win as a team.”

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