San Diego St. wins first regional crown at Tucson
Team winner: San Diego State, 19-under 833 (278-278-277)
Individual winner: Matt Hansen, UC-Davis, 9-under 204 (6472-68)
Also moving on: 2. Texas A&M (12-under 840). 3. California (9-under 843). 4. Arizona and Pepperdine (8-under 844).
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No Surprise here: Texas A&M and San Diego State were the top two seeds in the 14-team field at the Omni Tucson National Resort regional and the two best-ranked teams – the Aggies No. 6 and the Aztecs No. 13 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings.
They lived up to those pre-tournament expectations, too.
San Diego State won its first-ever regional title, shooting 19-under 833, while Texas A&M, the 2009 NCAA champions, followed at 12-under 840, three better than fourth seeded and No. 19-ranked California.
For San Diego State, it was the seventh win of the season, one that already is the best in school history and includes its first Mountain West Conference title.
“We came here with a lot of confidence and came to win this week,” said Aztec coach Ryan Donovan. “We accomplished that goal. Now it’s off to the next round (NCAA Finals, May 31-June 5 at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.) and see what we can do.”
Donovan said the goal going into the final round was to get off to a good start and the Aztecs followed through, standing at 7 under after nine holes. After that it was pretty much cruise control.
“This week, this season, has been one big team effort,” Donovan said. “I bet if you asked people around the country to name three guys on our team, they probably couldn’t. But that’s okay. As a unit, they have great team chemistry and they certainly have shown they can get the job done.”
Texas A&M coach J.T. Higgins was disappointed after having to count a 76 in the second round, but the Aggies came back and closed with a 7-under 277 with a high counting score being 1-over 72.
“I’m proud of them for the way they came back,” Higgins said. “We got off to a good start and made a lot of putts early and that was big.”
Did the Aggies’ performance this week at Tucson National help get them ready for the NCAA finals?
Higgins just gave a big smile. “Let me put it this way, using Tucson National to prepare for Karsten Creek is like getting ready for a U.S. Open by playing the Bob Hope Classic.”
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Stop the presses: Even though they were playing at home, the Arizona Wildcats came into the regional as the 11th seed among the 14 teams and at No. 66, the third-highest-ranked squad in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings.
But the Wildcats surprised those seeded and ranked higher, i.e., Texas Tech, Liberty, Washington, Oregon State, UC-Davis, and Purdue, and finished tied for fourth with somewhat surprising seventh seed and No. 36 Pepperdine.
It came down to the final stretch of holes. Washington was in the clubhouse at 7 under and Pepperdine at 8 under.
Then senior Tarquin MacManus, playing in the final threesome, birdied holes 15, 16 and 17 to push Arizona to 8-under. The ‘Cats moved to 9-under when sophomore Juan Pablo Hernandez sank a 6-foot birdie putt on 18. Although MacManus made bogey at 18, it still was enough to send the Wildcats to Stillwater.
“It was a great team effort and was pretty exciting at the end,” said veteran Arizona coach Rick LaRose. “But whose teams gets better as the season goes on? The Wildcats. I knew we were a decent team all year and it was just a matter of putting it all together. I can’t tell you how proud I am of these guys.”
LaRose has guided Arizona to the NCAA regionals 21 times in 22 years and has never failed to advance a team to the finals. Last season, the Wildcats did not make it past regionals, but LaRose at the time was coaching the women’s team at the NCAA Finals.
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Short shots: UC-Davis freshman Matt Hansen won medalist honors and the individual spot in next week’s NCAA Championship. After a career-low 7-under 64 to open the tournament, Hansen shot 72-68 for a 9-under 204 and a two-stroke victory over Alex Moore of Oregon State. “This is my biggest win so far,” said Hansen, who two weeks ago advanced to sectional U.S. Open qualifying. “I knew if I played well I could have a chance and then after that 64 I really felt like I could do it.” The key to Hansen’s tournament – he played the par 3s in 6 under . . . Pepperdine returns to the NCAA Finals for the first time since 2006. The tie for fourth by the Waves equals their best finish at the regional level which was a fourth in 1996 . . . .After the first round, Texas A&M senior Conrad Schindler stood in 73rd place among the 75 competing players. When the tournament ended Saturday T-34. That’s because he followed his opening 10-over 81 with a 3-under 68 and a 4-under 67, which included a double bogey on the final hole. The first day he made triple bogey on the par-5 10th hole and ended up playing the hole 1 under after going eagle-eagle the last two rounds.