Ex-U.S. Am champ's albatross sends team to NCAAs

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Seemingly forgotten after his stunning U.S. Amateur victory two years ago, San Diego State sophomore Gunn Yang hit the decisive shot Wednesday that sent his team to the NCAA Championship.

Yang made an albatross from 218 yards to help the Aztecs advance to the NCAA finals after beating Texas A&M in a team playoff for the fifth and final spot at the Albuquerque (N.M.) regional. 

“It was the best shot I have ever witnessed under the circumstances," San Diego State coach Ryan Donovan said Wednesday night. "He really wanted the team to qualify."

At No. 776 in the world, Yang was one of the most unlikely U.S. Amateur champions in history when he won in 2014. He took a year off from school to play amateur and pro events around the world, only to return to SDSU last fall. His sophomore season has been a struggle – he posted the fifth-best scoring average on the team (72.74), earned only two top-10s and was left on the bench for the Mountain West Championship.

Yang finished 10th at regionals after rounds of 73-75-75, but he birdied two of the last four holes to help the Aztecs get into the playoff with Texas A&M at 40-over 904.

In the play-five, count-four format, Yang holed out his 7-iron shot for an albatross on the first extra hole to give the Aztecs the early lead.

“At first I had to quiet everyone down,” Donovan said, “because we still had a lot of golf to finish.”

More cheers would follow: Ryann Ree also made a 6-foot eagle on the par 5 to push San Diego State (5 under) past A&M (2 under).

“First (albatross) I’ve ever seen,” Aggies coach J.T. Higgins said. 

Ranked 22nd in the country, San Diego State is heading to the NCAA finals for the fourth time since 2011. The first round of stroke-play qualifying begins next Friday at Eugene (Ore.) Country Club.