STILLWATER, Okla. – Carter Newman birdied the first playoff hole Saturday to beat Oklahoma State’s Sean Einhaus and lift defending champion Augusta State into an all-Georgia final round at the NCAA men’s golf tournament.
Newman hit clutch putts on the 17th and 18th holes to keep the pivotal match going, then pumped his fist after dropping the winner on the 14th green. Augusta State claimed a 3-2 victory in the match-play semifinal, beating the powerhouse Cowboys in a rematch of last year’s final.
“My kids love that. They love the underdog, they love trying to beat somebody they shouldn’t beat,” Augusta State coach Josh Gregory said.
“I always said our dream matchup would be to play the best team in the country on their home course, and to find a way to knock them off was pretty cool. But we’ve got one more to win.”
The final will pit Patrick Reed – who throttled U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein 8 and 7 – against his former school. He played for the Bulldogs as a freshman before transferring to Augusta State, which competes in Division II in most other sports.
“It’s a great group of guys, a great coach,” Reed said. “It’s just going to be fun.
“For me, it’s going to feel like I’m back at home.”
Augusta State set out to prove that last year’s finals upset wasn’t a fluke, also getting a 3-and-1 win by Henrik Norlander against Kevin Tway, a Ben Hogan Award finalist and the son of PGA Tour veteran Bob Tway.
“You can’t be shocked. They’re a good team. They’re a great team,” Georgia coach Chris Haack said. “They proved that last year. When you’re dealing with good players, even though there’s a home-course advantage and there’s course knowledge, we’ve been out here and played this golf course … six straight days.
“At some point, you just start feeling more and more comfortable.”
With the other four matches seemingly decided, it took a strong finish from Newman to put Augusta State back in the finals. He appeared set to go 1-down with one hole left when he drained a par putt from 25 feet on No. 17. He then watched Einhaus make a bunker save and birdie putt before hitting a pressure-packed 7-footer on the 18th.
Newman got his chance to close it out from about 5 feet after Einhaus hit his drive on the playoff hole into the rough and ended up with a far more difficult birdie putt.
“What’s so ironic is he struggled his career with his putting and just recently switched to a long putter midway through the spring, and it has completely changed his putting and his approach to the game,” Gregory said. “He’s Captain Clutch.”
The stunner for Oklahoma State was how Uihlein, who’ll be playing in the U.S. Open in two weeks, and Tway crumbled against the Jaguars for the second consecutive year.
Reed won the first three holes with a birdie on No. 1 and then back-to-back pars while Uihlein made consecutive bogeys. Then he closed it out by winning six straight holes – with birdies on Nos. 6, 7, 8, 9 and 11. He even won the 10th with a bogey when Uihlein made double.
“He hit it close and then whenever I actually had a chance to maybe hit one inside of him, I hit a bad shot. I just had no momentum. Nothing really just kind of went my way today. Obviously, I’m disappointed but we’ll be a little better next year.”
The Cowboys have made the NCAA tournament all 65 years it has been played and won 10 titles – but none since 2006, losing in the finals the past two years.
Uihlein quickly noted that Augusta State – at least with its current roster – can’t take down the Cowboys again next year. Reed is turning pro, and the Jaguars’ four other top players are all seniors.
“We’re not going to have to worry about them next year,” Uihlein said.