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NCAA men's regionals: South Carolina, SMU highlight thrilling final day

George Walker

The NCAA Division I men’s golf regionals concluded Wednesday at six sites across the country: Palouse Ridge (Pullman, Wash.), UT Golf Club (Austin, Texas), Stanford Golf Course (Stanford, Calif.), University of Louisville Golf Club (Louisville, Ky.), University of Georgia Golf Course (Athens, Ga.) and TPC Myrtle Beach (Myrtle Beach, S.C.).

The top five teams and the top individual not on advancing teams in each regional moved on to the NCAA Championship, which begins May 24 at Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Ark.

Here is everything you need to know from the final day:

Myrtle Beach Regional

Moving on: 1. Illinois (-25), 2. Ohio State (-20), 3. Wake Forest (-15), 4. California (-14), 5. UNLV (-8)

Just missed: 6. Florida State (-7), 7. Oregon (-1), 8. Northwestern (E), 9. Texas Tech (+1)

Medalist: Michael Feagles, Illinois (-15)

Advancing individual: Edwin Yi, Oregon (-14)

Story of the day: California. A year ago, the Bears left the Raleigh (N.C.) Regional without a ticket to the NCAA Championship for the second straight year. On Tuesday night, Cal found itself in the fifth position in Myrtle Beach.

Bears head coach Walter Chun didn’t panic, though.

“I told them last night, with the pressure that goes along with a regional and the depth of the field and the quality of teams, to be in the mix and not have your best stuff, I really sang their praises,” Chun said. “I told them, at some point we’re going to play well if you believe in yourselves and stay patient. At some point you’re going to take off.”

The second-seeded Bears did just that on their first nine Wednesday, shooting 10 under on TPC Myrtle Beach’s back nine. From there, Cal got some lucky breaks, finding a few balls in trees and hazards, and comfortably advanced by seven shots.

“It was nice not holding my breath on every shot,” Chun joked.

After sitting 3 over through two rounds, senior Collin Morikawa came alive for Cal, shooting 5-under 67 to finish T-14 individually. Fellow seniors Sebastian Crampton and K.K. Limbhasut finished 11th and ninth, respectively.

“I’m really happy for the guys,” Chun said. “They’ve gone through their downs, and just to have an opportunity for the seniors to play one more tournament together, I’m super proud.”

Notable nuggets: Illinois won its fifth regional title in seven years as Michael Feagles became the program’s fifth regional medalist. “We have been trying to get them to grow and play with strength and purpose all year, and it all came together this week,” Illinois head coach Mike Small said. … Eighth-seeded Ohio State is headed to its first NCAA finals since 2011, when the Buckeyes made match play. … Wake proved more than just a deep team as its top three players all finished T-14 or better, led by Eugenio Chacarra’s T-6 finish. … UNLV earned the final NCAA Championship berth with a 4-under round and 4-under second-nine performance by Justin Kim. … Florida State shot 9 under but finished one shot short. Greyson Porter was subbed in Wednesday and delivered a 3-under 69 that included a quadruple bogey. … Oregon didn’t advance, but senior Edwin Yi, who was part of the 2016 NCAA title team, finished second to advance individually. … Middle Tennessee State’s storybook season ended with a 13th-place finish. The Blue Raiders were without top player Marcus Byrd, who was ruled ineligible shortly before regionals.

Athens Regional

Moving on: 1. Georgia (-8), 2. Duke (-1), 3. Vanderbilt (+1), 4. SMU (+16), 5. Liberty (+18)

Just missed: 6. Tennessee (+21), 7. Nevada (+23), 8. Memphis (+25)

Medalist: Davis Thompson, Georgia (-8)

Advancing individual: Billy Tom Sargent, Western Kentucky (-3)

Story of the day: SMU. Earlier this spring, Mustangs freshman Ben Wong sat in an In-N-Out Burger in California in disbelief. He had signed for an incorrect score, causing his team to be disqualified from a 26-team tournament. SMU slipped in the rankings and ended up being the last team into regionals at No. 60 in Golfstat.

Wednesday, though, was a different story for Wong. It was a story of redemption as he shot 3-under 68 to lead the 10th-seeded Mustangs to a fourth-place finish and back to the NCAA Championship.

“You gotta feel great for him,” SMU head coach Jason Enloe said. “I know he felt bad about what happened, and we were all kind of a little bit down about it. You could tell we were stuck in neutral for a couple of tournaments. Just the redemption and the satisfaction that he feels, I’m super happy for him to come through like that. He was huge.”

The Mustangs entered the final round in a four-way tie for fifth before gutting out a 1-under performance to finish five shots clear of sixth-place Tennessee.

“I told the guys last night to just go out and play for each other,” Enloe said. “They are a tightknit group of guys. I told them that no matter what, if they did that, they would not fail. They fought like hell and they did what they always do, give me full effort, and it worked out.”

Notable nuggets: Paced by medalist Davis Thompson and third-place-finisher Spencer Ralston, Georgia defended its home turf and advanced to its first NCAA finals since 2016. … Duke, a year after making it to the semifinals of NCAA match play, placed four players in the top 10 and finished second. … Vanderbilt finished third behind the red-hot Will Gordon, who finished second. … Liberty placed fifth to qualify for its second NCAA Championship in program history and first since 2012. … Nevada placed seventh and almost sent Stephen Osborne, older brother of SMU’s Ollie Osborne, to the finals as an individual. But Osborne fell to Western Kentucky’s Billy Tom Sargent in a playoff.

Louisville Regional

Moving on: 1. Oklahoma State (-14), 2. Auburn (-10), 3. Baylor (-7), 4. Louisville (+7), 5. North Florida (+8)

Just missed: 6. West Virginia (+10), 7. Mississippi State (+14), 8. Iowa State (+15), 9. Arizona (+17)

Medalist: Tripp Kinney, Iowa State (-7)

Advancing individual: Kinney

Story of the day: North Florida. If one word can describe this Ospreys team, it’s experience. North Florida’s regional lineup featured four seniors and a junior, including three upperclassmen in Philip Knowles, Andrew Alligood and Travis Trace who, as head coach Scott Schroeder noted, “have played in every event all four years.”

That group has played in four regionals and has found itself in one of the bubble pairings each time. As freshmen and sophomores, they failed to advance, but last year they tied for second to qualify for the NCAA Championship.

On Wednesday, the Ospreys found themselves six shots behind fifth-place Louisville.

“They knew what it was like to be in this position,” Schroeder said.

And they delivered, shooting 1-under 283 to grab the final ticket to Fayetteville. Knowles shot 5-under 66 to finish T-6 while Alligood and fellow senior Jordan Batchelor shot 72 and 71, respectively.

With Iowa State falling from fourth to eighth after shooting 13 over, North Florida was more than prepared to take their place.

Notable nuggets: The top five seeds all advanced. … Led by Viktor Hovland’s T-2 finish, reigning NCAA champion Oklahoma State shot 7 under and won its 14th regional title by four shots. … Auburn didn’t have a player shoot even par or better Wednesday, but the Tigers, a national semifinalist last year, still placed second and advanced comfortably. … Baylor finished third to stretch its program record of consecutive NCAA Championship appearances to four. … Louisville’s counting scorers combined for just eight birdies Wednesday, though the host Cardinals still climbed a spot to fourth. … West Virginia’s bid for its first NCAA finals since 1947 came two shots short.

Austin Regional

Moving on: 1. Texas (-25), 2. TCU (-9), 3. Clemson (-1), 4. Pepperdine (+6), 5. USC (+8)

Just missed: 6. Arkansas (+13), 7. Iowa (+18)

Medalists: Cole Hammer, Texas; Steven Chervony, Texas; Stefano Mazzoli, TCU (-9)

Advancing individual: Julian Perico, Arkansas (-3)

Story of the day: USC. For the 12th time in 13 years under head coach Chris Zambri, the Trojans are headed to the NCAA Championship.

USC, the No. 2 seed and a year removed from missing out on nationals, started the day five shots behind fifth-place Arkansas. Zambri subbed in Charlie Reiter, but Reiter’s 77 was thrown out. It was all on the top four players, especially senior Justin Suh.

They were up for the challenge. Suh made six birdies and shot 69. Sam Kim, who ended up fifth individually, added a 69. And sophomore Kaito Onishi, 9 over through 36 holes, rebounded with a closing 70.

“It was an amazing round,” Zambri said. “I'm so proud of these guys. They played some truly great golf under the gun. Now we need to regroup and get ready for the finals.”

Added Kim: “Coming up short last year really put a dent on us and I believe that's what helped us push through this time.”

Notable nuggets: The top five seeds all advanced. … Texas picked up its first win of the season with a 20-shot victory at regionals. Freshman Cole Hammer shared the medal with senior Steven Chervony. It was Hammer’s third win of the season. “It was fun to see a bunch of birdies go up on the board, something we haven’t seen too much of this year,” Hammer said. “And to finally get the [team] win was really special.” … TCU placed second to advance to its first NCAA Championship since 2016. … Clemson is now headed to a fifth straight NCAA finals after finishing third behind a T-6 finish by senior Bryson Nimmer. … Pepperdine was below the cut line at one point Wednesday afternoon but hung on to finish fourth after a 6-over final round. Joe Highsmith was fourth individually after closing in 69. … Arkansas’ four counting scorers combined to play their final three holes (Nos. 7-9) in 10 over as the Razorbacks finished five shots back of fifth. Freshman Julian Perico did share sixth to advance individually.

Stanford Regional

Moving on: 1. Stanford (-23), 2. Arizona State (-11), 2. North Carolina (-11), 4. Georgia Southern (-6), 5. LSU (+2)

Just missed: 6. Ole Miss (+3), 7. Virginia (+7), 8. South Florida (+9), 8. N.C. State (+9)

Medalist: Isaiah Salinda, Stanford (-10)

Advancing individual: Kyler Dunkle, Utah (-7)

Story of the day: LSU. Looking to avoid a second straight regional exit, the third-seeded Tigers entered Wednesday trailing ninth-seeded Ole Miss, in fifth after 36 holes, by three shots. They finished the day one clear of the Rebels.

“I’ve had some teams in the past that have barely gotten through regionals that went on to do some pretty good stuff at nationals,” said LSU head coach Chuck Winstead, referencing the 2015 LSU team that rallied from an 11-shot deficit at regionals before winning the NCAA title a week later and the 2011 team. “We’ve done this before, so I’m comfortable with this position. The reality is that this tournament’s over and we’re fortunate to get to go play another one.”

For much of the day, it was a final-round battle between the veteran-laden Tigers (two seniors, two juniors) and the young Rebels (three freshmen, one sophomore).

Neither team did much early, but Ole Miss hung on to a two-shot lead after the first nine, Stanford Golf Course’s back nine, thanks in large part to freshman Jack Gnam’s bogey-free, 3-under start. Another freshman, Jackson Suber, then birdied his first three holes on the front nine as the Rebels continued to run.

However, LSU limited its mistakes better down the stretch. Even with a closing triple from junior Trey Winstead, the Tigers had three players shoot 1 over or better on the front while Ole Miss had three shoot 3 over or worse.

Freshman Sarut Vongchaisit entered the day at 5 under before shooting 77, which included a 6-over 41 on his final nine.

“This is a tough pill to swallow,” Ole Miss head coach Chris Malloy said. “We didn’t have an ideal finish, but that’s somewhat to be expected with a young group of guys and going through this and learning. It doesn’t feel good right now, but I know this will help them going forward.”

For LSU, seniors Luis Gagne and Nathan Jeansonne each fired closing 70s. Jeansonne had been 13 over through two rounds. Gagne finished T-10 to lead the Tigers.

“I felt like Nathan’s round was huge,” Winstead said. “His maturity and having played a lot of college golf, it certainly made a big difference today.”

Notable nuggets: Stanford won its fourth consecutive tournament for the first time since the 2012-13 season and now advances to nationals for the 12th time in 15 years. … Freshman Cameron Sisk shot 5-under 65 Wednesday and tied for second along with teammate Chun An Yu to lead top-seeded Arizona State to a T-2 finish along with North Carolina, which advances out of Stanford for the second time in three years. … Georgia Southern joined SMU as the highest seeds to advance, at No. 10. The Eagles were led by their senior standout Steven Fisk, who tied for seventh. … Virginia shot 2 under behind a 5-under combined performance from Thomas Walsh and David Morgan, but the Cavaliers fell five shots short.

Pullman Regional

Moving on: 1. Texas A&M (-33), 2. BYU (-31), 3. Oklahoma (-30), 4. Georgia Tech (-22), 5. South Carolina (-21)

Just missed: 6. Colorado State (-21), 7. Michigan State (-12), 8. UCLA (-11)

Medalist: Rhett Rasmussen, BYU (-15)

Advancing individual: Zach Smith, UC Santa Barbara (-13)

Story of the day: South Carolina. In the only playoff of this regional season, the third-seeded Gamecocks needed extra holes against No. 7 Colorado State to determine their NCAA fate.

In the five-count-five playoff on Palouse Ridge’s par-5 18th hole, South Carolina got the job done. Ryan Stachler’s birdie proved to be the difference as his teammates added four pars.

The Rams, who were looking for their first NCAA Championship berth under coach Christian Newton, shot even par in the playoff.

Stachler made up for his closing 5-over 75 that didn’t count toward South Carolina’s 13-under team score. Scott Stevens and Ryan Hall each shot 65 while Will Miles added a 66. The Gamecocks’ counters combined for just five bogeys Wednesday.

Colorado State closed in 9 under and threw out a 70. But the Rams couldn’t keep the pace of a blazing start that featured 16 first-nine birdies.

Notable nuggets: Texas A&M placed four players at T-12 or better, including Walker Lee in sixth and Chandler Phillips at T-7, to win by two shots. … BYU, led by medalist Rhett Rasmussen, booked its NCAA Championship ticket for the second straight year. … Top-seeded Oklahoma didn’t have a player shoot worse than 68 in the final round as the Sooners finished third. … Second-seeded Georgia Tech avoided a second straight regional exit, finishing fourth despite a 3-under final round.