CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – Scott Langley and his Illinois teammates barely qualified for the NCAA golf tournament. He took that as an excuse to relax about their chances of winning a title.
With the pressure off, Langley won the individual title Thursday in the NCAA Division I championship, making four birdies and an eagle for his second straight 4-under 68 and a two-stroke victory on The Honors Course.
“I just came in trying to have fun and enjoy it the most that I could,” Langley said. “We barely snuck in at regionals, so I was just happy to be here. You get a little momentum on this course and a lot of good things can happen, especially as well as I hit it at stretches throughout the week.”
Oklahoma State wrapped up the day as the top team advancing to quarterfinals match play, finishing at 14-under 850 after shooting 5 under Thursday.
The Cowboys were the top-seeded team coming out of stroke play in the 2009 NCAA tournament too, but were upset in the quarterfinals by eighth-seeded Georgia, which had finished 30 shots behind them during the 54 holes of stroke play.
“I think they know what’s ahead of them. I think they know what they need to do. Three of these kids that are on this team were in that locker room at Inverness last year,” Oklahoma State coach Mike McGraw said. “Hopefully our guys learned something from that experience last year that can help propel them to better golf this year.”
Langley and his Fighting Illini teammates were the bottom team from the West Regional to qualify for the tournament, earning the 27th seed out of 30. Combined with his first-round 2-under 70, the junior from Manchester, Mo., finished at 10-under 206 early in the afternoon with the rest of the lower-seeded teams.
San Diego’s Alex Ching, who led by two strokes after 36 holes, still had a chance to catch him late in the day on the 18th hole after making a birdie on 17. His drive hit the rough to the right of the fairway and his subsequent shot landed in a dip in the rough on the left side of the green, making a chip in nearly impossible.
Oklahoma State’s Peter Uihlein (71) made par on his last seven holes to tie Ching for second place.
“That’s golf,” said Ching, who closed with a 73. “I tried to relax, but I knew someone was going to take it a little lower. I just tried to go out and play the same aggressive golf as I had been doing.”
As the last Torero to complete the course, Ching also carried his team’s hope of advancing on his back. With his bogey on 18, San Diego landed in a Friday sudden-death playoff with Arizona State and Stanford to determine the eighth team that will participate in three rounds of match play.
Also qualifying for match play were Florida State (854), Georgia Tech (858), Washington (860), Oregon (861), Augusta State (863) and Texas Tech (867), which shot an 8-under 280 on Thursday to fight back into contention after a 14-over-par performance in the first round.
“We played so bad in the first round that we were due for something. It just all came together today,” Texas Tech coach Greg Sands said. “I am proud of the guys fighting until the end. It looks like we will need every shot that we can get.”