Texas captures Augusta State Invitational by two

Texas freshman Brandon Stone

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AUGUSTA, Ga. –- Texas seems to be faring just fine without Jordan Spieth. The Longhorns won the Augusta State Invitational on Sunday for their third win of the season.

One of those victories, at the season-opening Carpet Capital Collegiate, came with Spieth in the lineup. The other two wins have happened since Spieth left mid-season to pursue his pro career. Both sides have had success since his departure. Spieth has earned $536,732 in six PGA Tour starts, including a runner-up finish at the Puerto Rico Open, to earn special temporary membership on the PGA Tour.

The Longhorns, led by player-of-the-year candidate Brandon Stone, are No. 4 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings and has won twice in the spring, at Augusta State and the Bayou City Collegiate. Their victory Sunday reinforced the fact that this Texas team, in spite of the loss of its two first-team All-Americans from last season (Dylan Frittelli was a senior last season), has a chance to repeat the feat of the host of this collegiate undercard to the Masters, winning back-to-back NCAA titles.

Texas won last year’s Augusta State Invitational in a playoff over the host institution, then went on to win the NCAA title less than two months later. Augusta State was the runner-up at its home event for the second consecutive year, finishing at 1-over 865 (283-293-289), two shots behind Texas. The hosts began the final day with a two-shot lead over the Longhorns, but Texas shot a final-round 285 to overtake Augusta State. The Longhorns finished at 1-under 863 (296-282-285).

“Top-to-bottom, they were strong throughout the week,” Fields said of his team.

Stone finished fourth at 4-under 212 after shooting 74-68-70. Kramer Hickok, a sophomore, was second on the team, finishing a career-best 13th after shooting even-par 216 (74-70-72). Hickok caddied for Spieth when Spieth contended at the PGA Tour’s Byron Nelson Championship as a high-school senior.

The Augusta State Invitational was supposed to be the host team’s final event of the year. The Jaguars are allowed one more day of play this season, though, and have a sub-.500 record, so they will try to play a one-day event to get their record above .500 and become eligible for an at-large postseason bid. The Jaguars, No. 58 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, entered their home event with a 50-65-2 record. They now have a 62-66-2 record. Teams must have a .500 record to receive an at-large invitation to the postseason; Augusta State must rely on such an invitation because it plays as a Division I independent.

The Jaguars gave themselves a chance to win. Derek Chang, playing in the second-to-last group, had a 50-yard pitch stop on the lip of the 18th hole, almost falling for eagle. He made birdie. Robin Petersson, who played in the final group, drove the final green before two-putting for birdie from 50 feet.

Chang finished third at 5-under 211 (68-72-71), two shots out of the playoff for the individual title, while Petersson finished T-5 at 3-under 213 (68-72-73). They were two of four co-leaders entering the final day, along with Eason and North Augusta native Matthew NeSmith of South Carolina. NeSmith shot a final-round 74 to tie for eighth.

Coastal Carolina’s Sebastian Soderberg won the individual playoff on the fifth hole of a sudden-death playoff with Central Florida’s Greg Eason. They tied at 7-under 209, then played the 302-yard, par-4 18th five times in the playoff. Soderberg shot 68-66 in the final two rounds after a first-round 75, while Eason broke par in all three rounds, firing 70-70-69.

Soderberg three-putted the final hole from about 20 feet, running his birdie putt from the fringe about 5 feet by the hole, then missing the putt for the outright win. He finished about an hour before Eason, who shot 3-under 33 on his final nine, Forest Hills’ front nine, including a two-putt birdie at the par-5 ninth.

The playoff seemed ceaseless, as both players chose to lay up off the tee on the drivable par-4. Soderberg, who entered the event at No. 64 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, hit 5-iron off the tee each time, leaving himself with wedge approach shots each time. The players halved the first playoff hole with birdies, then halved it with pars three consecutive times before Soderberg’s clinching birdie.

Both players birdied the first hole of sudden-death, with Eason, ranked 38th by Golfweek, holing a 15-footer from the fringe before Soderberg followed by making a 12-foot, downhill putt that fell in the hole on the last roll. “I was thinking, ‘No you didn’t,’ said Soderberg, who briefly thought he may have left the putt short. Soderberg missed a 3-foot birdie putt on the third playoff hole, with Eason doing the same on the next hole. Soderberg won by making a 12-foot birdie putt from the back fringe.

“It was hard not to think about (his previous chances at victory), but I knew if I just focused and stayed in the present I’d have a chance,” said Soderberg, the first Coastal Carolina player to win at Augusta State since Dustin Johnson in 2007.

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