LAREDO, Texas- In perhaps the greatest comeback in Texas A&M golf history, the Aggie men's team rallied from a 16-stroke deficit on Saturday to capture the team title at the 52nd Border Olympics at Laredo Country Club.
The Aggies entered Saturday's final round tied for sixth-place, 16 shots behind tournament-leader Arkansas. But A&M closed with a 10-under-par 278 -- the third best score in school history -- while the Razorbacks carded a six-over-par 294. Both teams stood at 859 after 54 holes before A&M prevailed in a lengthy four-hole playoff that lasted 3 1/2 hours.
The victory was A&M's first since it won the Pepperdine Intercollegiate in the fall of 1999. The win was the Aggies' first under second-year head coach J.T. Higgins, who won the 2001 Border Olympics in his final year at New Mexico. A&M has won four Border Olympics titles, the last coming in 1997.
The only comparable comeback for the Aggies in recent history came in 1987, when A&M rallied from a 10-stroke deficit going into the final round to win the Southwest Conference Championship in Houston.
The playoff victory ended a long but rewarding day for the Aggies, who began the final round at 8 a.m. and finished at 1:15 p.m. The playoff began at 1:30 p.m. and, with temperatures reaching the mid-90s, finally ended at 5 p.m.
All five players from each team were involved in the playoff, which consisted of two threesomes and one foursome. The teams remained tied through three playoff holes before A&M played the final hole in even par and the Razorbacks carded a two-over-par score.
'Obviously, we are thrilled with the victory,' Higgins said. 'This is probably the biggest comeback I've ever been associated with. With postseason on the line, everyone on our team came to play today. I think we just wanted it more.'
A&M junior Stephen Reed carded a final-round of three-under-par 69 and tied for second in the individual standings with a 70-70-69=209 total. Junior David Tasker and senior Shaun Helmle also closed with 69s, while freshman Andrew Parr had a 71 and junior Parker Briley shot 77.
Parr tied for ninth at 71-72-71=214, Helmle finished 27th at 73-76-69=218, Tasker tied for 38th at 74-77-69=220 and Briley tied for 85th at 72-81-77=230.
'The best thing about this win is that everyone contributed,' Higgins said. 'I'm really proud of all of them. Parker struggled in the last round, but came back to lead us in the playoff by shooting even-par for those four holes.'
Arkansas' Andrew Dahl won individual honors with rounds of 65-71-69=205, finishing four shots ahead of Reed and Baylor's Ryan Baca (71-68-70=209).
San Diego State and Baylor tied for third in the team standings with an 861 total, two strokes behind A&M and Arkansas. Kansas State finished fifth at 869, followed by SMU (871), BYU (874), Alabama-Birmingham (875), Colorado State (876), Iowa State (877), Lamar (879), Texas-Arlington (880), Washington State (884), Notre Dame (885), Rice (887), UTSA (887), Texas Tech (888), Southwest Texas State (890), Rhode Island (894) and Louisiana-Lafayette (910).
The victory all but assures the Aggies of a bid to the NCAA Regionals May 15-17.
'This is the way we need to play the rest of the year,' Higgins said. 'I think we should be in regionals now, so we can concentrate on improving our seeding by playing well the rest of the way.'
The Aggies compete at the U.S. Collegiate Championships April 19-20 in Palo Alto, Calif., their final tuneup for the Big 12 Championships April 28-29 in Tulsa, Okla.