East: Penn St., Kent St. make more history
Lance and Asher break down an action-packed weekend at the six NCAA Men’s regionals.
Champions: Texas, Kent State (5-under 835)
Individual champions: Rhys Enoch, East Tennessee State, T.J. Howe, Penn State (7-under 203)
The top 5: 3. UCLA (836); 4. Penn State (837); 5. Viriginia (843)
Close but no cigar: 6. East Tennessee State, Charlotte (844)
Individual advancer: Rhys Enoch, ETSU
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History lesson, Part 1: Penn State coach Greg Nye loved telling his players all about the 2004 team that came to Yale as an underdog and left with a ticket to the NCAA Championship, beating top-ranked Florida and Camilo Villegas along the way.
“Now the story is a little longer,” said senior Kevin Foley.
The Nittany Lions, No. 74 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings, hovered around the top 5 all week and ended up finishing fourth at 3-under 837, two shots back of first.
“I definitely gained some credibility with my players now that we’ve gone through twice here,” Nye joked.
During Wednesday’s practice round, Nye walked around the greens dropping hole markers where he figured pin placements would be for Round 1. “I think I guessed 16 of 18 correctly,” Nye said.
Senior T.J. Howe, who shot 66 Saturday to finish in a tie for first individually, said Nye’s knowledge helped create a comfort zone.
“It helped a lot. I think he just has a good idea of how to get around the course without making big mistakes,” said Howe.
One small mistake, however, cost Howe the outright individual title: A three-putt on the 18th green for bogey, which dropped him into a tie with Rhys Enoch of East Tennessee State at 7-under 203.
“I’m still kind of upset about (the three-putt), but it’s still a win,” said Howe. “There’s always been that one round or those two holes that have kept me out of it, and this week I didn’t let that happen.”
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History lesson, Part 2: Kent State coach Herb Page walked through the clubhouse at The Course at Yale earlier in the week and noticed a plaque on one of the walls that listed LSU as winner of the 1983 Yale Fall Intercollegiate.
As Page pointed out, the Golden Flashes actually tied for first that year with LSU, but lost the title when officials broke the tie by going to the fifth scores.
There we no tiebreakers Saturday after freshman Kevin Miller chipped in for birdie from the side of the 18th green to boost Kent State into a tie for first with Texas, earning Page his third regional victory in 32 years as coach.
“We did get it back (for coach),” said junior John Hahn, who shot a final-round 67 and tied for eighth. “We’re so excited. It was a great week for us, and then Kevin chipping on the last hole is just cool.”
Kent State, No. 45 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings, played as steady as any team all week, and got a big boost from Miller, who finished tied for fourth with rounds of 67-68-71. The Golden Flashes shots rounds of 277-278-280 for a 5-under 835 total, relying on straight driving and the confidence from a “very high Mental Health Index,” as Page put it, from their 22-shot victory at the MAC Championship.
“I don’t want to sound pompous, but we’ve done this enough times that people should give us a little credit,” said Page. “It’s not like it’s surprise, surprise – and I don’t want to play the underdog.”
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Pizza party!: UCLA started off its week on the East Coast by grabbing some pizza in a hole-in-the-wall joint in Manhattan. They ended the week by qualifying for the NCAA Championship.
And then going for more pizza, of course. Or at least that’s what head coach Derek Freeman said he wanted to do.
“I want pizza!” said Freeman, while packing up the rental van with his players, his team having just locked up a spot in the top 5. The Bruins shot the best final round of the day, a 7-under 273, to finish third, one shot behind the leaders.
“The white clam pizza at Sally’s,” Freeman said, referring to a famous establishment located in downtown New Haven, Conn., not far from Yale. “Unbelievable.”
This was also unbelievable: At one point early in the first round Thursday, the top-seeded Bruins occupied the last spot on the leaderboard. But Freeman passed that off as commonplace, saying UCLA had started off slow all year.
“The end, that’s all that matters, right?” Freeman said Saturday.
Indeed, the Bruins finished strong. Gregor Main played his final nine holes in 4 under, Mario Clemens in 3 under. Clemens also birdied 18, sinking a 16-footer from the fringe, as did Pontus Widegren, from 8 feet below the hole.
“Two under on 18. I’ll take that every time,” said Freeman.
“There was no fear at all,” said Widegren. “We had a calm confidence the whole day and we just went out and tried to win.”
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End of the road, Part I: Corey Nagy advanced to three consecutive NCAA Championships in his first three years at Charlotte. His senior ended early, however, as the 49ers fell just short.
Charlotte made a back-nine run to shoot a final-round 278 to finish the week at 4-over 843, one shot behind fifth-place Virginia.
Nagy, No. 18 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings, shot 66 in his final college round.
“I definitely thought about ‘Hey this could be the last time I ever play for UNC-Charlotte, and that definitely motivated me,” Nagy said. “ But to come up short definitely hurts, for sure.”
Nagy will play for the U.S. Palmer Cup team at Royal Portrush Golf Club in Northern Ireland next month. He said he is already writing letters to Nationwide Tour and PGA Tour tournaments directors, hoping to get some exemptions for when he turns professional sometime this summer.
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End of the road, Part 2: Alabama’s Bud Cauley, one of three finalists for the Ben Hogan Award, closed with an even-par 70 for a 4-over 214 total to finish in a tie for 36th and will not be playing in next week’s NCAA Championship. Alabama shot 10-over 850 and finished ninth.
“I don’t really know what happened,” said Cauley, No. 2 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings. “I didn’t play too good.
Earlier this year, Cauley was rumored to be turning professional at the end of this college season. He said Saturday that he intends to play a full schedule of amateur golf this summer and return to Alabama next fall.
“I’m staying,” he said.