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NCAA regionals: Big comebacks send Oklahoma, Florida, UAB all through

OU Athletics
OU Athletics

The NCAA Division I men’s golf regionals wrapped up Wednesday at five of six sites across the country: The Sagamore Club in Noblesville, Indiana; Seminole Legacy Golf Club in Tallahassee, Florida; Championship Course at UNM in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Golf Club of Tennessee in Kingston Springs, Tennessee; and Tumble Creek Golf and Country Club in Cle Elum, Washington.

The top five teams and the top individual not on advancing teams in each regional moved on to the NCAA Championship, which begins May 28 at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The NCAA regional at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Oklahoma, finished Tuesday with Oklahoma State, Illinois, SMU, Sam Houston State and Little Rock earning the five national team bids and Colorado State’s A.J. Ott advancing as the individual. SMU’s Noah Goodwin was the individual medalist. Sam Houston State and Little Rock each qualified for the NCAA Championship for the first time in program history.

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

Tallahassee Regional

Seminole Legacy GC, Tallahassee, Florida

Moving on: 1. Florida State (-34), 2. Georgia (-17), 3. Georgia Tech (-16), 4. Liberty (-15), 5. TCU (-9)

Just missed: 6. Ohio State (-7), 7. Kansas (-6), 8. Georgia Southern (E)

Medalist: Davis Thompson, Georgia (-14)

Advancing individual: Michael Sakane, Jacksonville (-13)

Final scores

Story of the day: Cruising on its home golf course, the brand-new Seminole Legacy Golf Club, Florida State needed to find ways to stay locked in competitively. The Seminoles weren’t just battling the field on Wednesday, they were also competing against each other.

“We had some interesting intra-team battles going on out there, guys looking at each other from across the fairways,” Florida State head coach Trey Jones said. “That’s really ultimately what every coach here wants, they want their players challenging each other every day. If you’re Brett Roberts and your goal is to beat John Pak, then you better be focused all day.”

Roberts, a freshman who had yet to beat the All-American Pak this season (and he’s heard plenty about it), had a short birdie look at the penultimate hole to take a lead over the decorated senior. However, his putt lipped out and he bogeyed the last. Another one for Pak.

“I like to give him a tough time, but this is making him tougher, as well,” Pak said. “He’s such a talented player, and he’s got one more chance to beat me at nattys.”

Roberts was briefly disappointed. Like for a few seconds. He tied for fifth at 7 under, a shot back of Pak and another back of another Florida State senior, Vincent Norrman. And as a team, the Seminoles won their first regional title ever, and in dominating fashion, shooting the round of the day (10 under) and beating runner-up Georgia by 17 shots.

“We’re going to ride this momentum to the national championship,” Pak said. “I’ve been here four years and I’m a little inexperienced, I guess, because I’ve never been to a national championship. … We’re all real excited to get to Arizona.”

Notable nuggets: Georgia’s second-place showing was spurred by senior Davis Thompson’s second straight NCAA regional win. Thompson shot 14 under for his second win of this season, which puts him firmly in the Haskins Award conversation. “Obviously, I would love to win that award,” said Thompson, who could join Russell Henley as the only Bulldogs to win the honor. “But the big goal is winning a national championship in two weeks.” … TCU is now 18 of 31 in advancing to the NCAA Championship out of regionals since 1991. All of those regional appearances have come under current head coach Bill Montigel, yet the Horned Frogs boast one of the youngest lineups in the nation with four sophomores and a freshman, who all experienced their first postseason event this week. … Liberty has now made two straight NCAA Championships and three overall. … Georgia Tech avoided a fourth missed NCAA Championship in its past five tries by finishing third. The Yellow Jackets lost three seniors to pro golf in the last six months – Ty Strafaci, Andy Ogletree and Luke Schniederjans. … LSU was one of four No. 4 seeds among the six regionals to not advance.

Noblesville Regional

The Sagamore Club, Noblesville, Indiana

Moving on: 1. Texas (-20), 2. North Carolina (-15), 2. Tennessee (-2), 4. Louisville (-10), 5. UAB (-5)

Just missed: 6. North Florida (-1), 7. Arkansas State (+10)

Medalist: Cole Bradley, Purdue (-10)

Advancing individual: Bradley

Final scores

Story of the day: UAB entered the final round at Sagamore Club in seventh place and more importantly 11 shots outside of the top five. But there were no pep-talks. No motivational speeches. In fact, there was mostly silence as the Blazers prepared for the biggest round of their season.

“We don’t talk very much. These guys just compete,” UAB head coach Mike Wilson said. “You always know there’s a chance. We knew we had to get off to a good start, and we did, and they just kept going.”

The Blazers carded 15 birdies and turned in 6 under before a three-eagle, 7-under back nine to shoot the round of the day by five shots and finish fifth, four shots ahead of North Florida.

Wilson, who will coach UAB at nationals for the first time in five years, said his team doesn’t lack self-belief. The Blazers went 3-0 in the fall, and despite a winless spring they cut their teeth in tough events, including two with mostly-SEC fields. And then on Tuesday, UAB’s players saw mid-majors Sam Houston State and Little Rock advance out of the Stillwater Regional and thought, Why not us?

Nick Robillard and Ethan Hagood might not have cracked the top 35 for the tournament, but they each closed in 5-under 67 while Drew Mathers chipped in a 69 to help UAB pull off the comeback.

“I don’t think the moment bothers us at all,” Wilson said. “I think we relish it, to be honest.”

Notable nuggets: Texas’ win secures the Longhorns’ 14th straight trip to nationals. Junior Parker Coody led the way with a T-5 finish. He’s now posted consecutive top-10s since missing four of six events to close the regular season. … North Carolina has now qualified for four straight NCAA Championships. The last time the Heels did that was 1997-2000. … Tennessee advanced out of regionals for the first time since 2013. … Despite its top two players, Matthias Schmid and GB&I Walker Cupper John Murphy, finishing outside of the top 20, Louisville punched its nationals ticket thanks largely to a top-10 by Jiri Zuska and T-15 by Trevor Johnson. Murphy, surprisingly, was the toss-out score in two of the three rounds. … North Florida shot 2 over on Wednesday to fall to sixth, meaning the Ospreys’ season is over and star freshman Nick Gabrelcik won’t have a shot to boost his Haskins resume.

Kingston Springs Regional

GC of Tennessee, Kingston Springs, Tennessee

Moving on: 1. Vanderbilt (-18), 2. Arkansas (-7), 3. San Diego State (-5), 4. Clemson (-3), 4. North Carolina State (-3)

Just missed: 6. Charlotte (-1), 7. Virginia (+5), 8. Kent State (+8)

Medalist: Puwit Anupansuebsai, San Diego State (-8)

Advancing individual: James Piot, Michigan State (-5)

Final scores

Story of the day: While top seeds were rallying and Cinderellas were punching their NCAA Championship tickets at other regionals, this regional went according to plan and with little drama.

The top five seeds all advanced, though No. 1 Clemson ended things a little closer than it would’ve liked, in a tie for fourth and two shots clear of sixth-place Charlotte. And host Vanderbilt easily won by 11 shots at 19 under thanks to a closing 9-under 275.

Yes, it was on their home golf course, but the Commodores are riding one of the bigger waves of momentum into Grayhawk, having won both SEC and regional titles. The regional title Wednesday marked the first in school history.

“I know what we’re capable of,” Vanderbilt head coach Scott Limbaugh said. “Ever since we became a different team this spring, all we’ve talked about is, ‘Let’s put our heads down and see how good we can become.’ To their credit, that’s exactly what they’ve done.”

Notable nuggets: Arkansas’ Tyson Reeder closed in 6-under 65 (the best regional round in program history) to finish second individually at 7-under 206 (the best 54-hole regional score in program history). … What do Dustin Johnson and San Diego State’s Puwit Anupansuebsai have in common? They’ve each won an NCAA regional title at the Golf Club of Tennessee (Johnson won his in 2005). The Aztecs will also be playing their first NCAA Championship since 2016, the year after Xander Schauffele turned pro. … Larry Penley’s legendary Clemson career isn’t done yet. The Tigers qualified for their 30th NCAA Championship in 37 tries under Penley, who is retiring after this season. … N.C. State senior Ben Shipp’s top-5 streak ends at four with a T-28 showing. … Kent State, which held a share of the first-round lead, finished eighth.

Albuquerque Regional

Championship Course at UNM, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Moving on: 1. Texas Tech (-26), 2. Arizona State (-16), 2. Oregon State (-16), 4. Oklahoma (-13), 5. San Diego (-12)

Just missed: 6. Texas A&M (-11), 7. Stanford (-8), 7. New Mexico (-8), 9. South Carolina (-3)

Medalist: Ryan Hall, South Carolina (-11)

Advancing individual: Hall

Final scores

Story of the day: After his team survived the biggest scare of any of the No. 1 seeds, Oklahoma head coach Ryan Hybl took to Twitter, posting a GIF of a man breathing into a brown paper bag along with the caption, “Never a doubt … sheesh!”

If the Sooners got a little bit of motion sickness on Wednesday, it’s because they rocketed up the leaderboard at University of New Mexico’s Championship Course, starting the final round in ninth, five shots outside the top five, before rallying to finish fourth, two clear of sixth.

Trying to avoid becoming the first No. 1 overall seed to miss out on advancing to the NCAA Championship in this current regional format, Oklahoma’s three seniors stepped up in crunch time.

Quade Cummins closed in 4-under 68 while Garett Reband and Jonathan Brightwell each chipped in with 70s. All three birdied the final hole, with Brightwell birdieing three of his final five holes as the Sooners erased a four-shot deficit with five holes to play.

Oklahoma’s 10-under 278 was the second-best round of the day, behind Texas Tech’s 277.

“Today was hopefully the start of something really special,” said Hybl, who has now taken the Sooners to 10 straight NCAA Championships after missing out in his first year. “We didn't play very well the first two days and to come out here and shoot double-digits under par was absolutely phenomenal. To get four birdies on the last hole, which is what we needed, is great. I'm just so thankful for our guys and the work they've put in.

“For those seniors to play like that down the stretch and help us move on means everything to me. I'll be honest with you, I started to tear up on the 18th green just because I was so happy. I didn't want our guys to miss out, I mean, those guys came back for moments like this.”

Notable nuggets: San Diego was the last at-large team into regionals if you go by the Golfstat rankings, but after a 7-under final round, the Toreros edged Texas A&M for the fifth spot and will play in their first NCAA Championship since 2011 next week in Arizona. San Diego was the worst seed (11) to make it through regionals. … After missing the NCAA Championship in 2019, Texas Tech proved it’s still a national-title threat without Sandy Scott. Ludvig Aberg tied for fourth and the Red Raiders won their second regional – first since 2010 – by 10 shots. … David Puig (eighth) and Kevin Yu (T-10) each shot 2-under 70 Wednesday to earn top-10s. Puig, who started the spring with two wins, now has three straight top-10s entering nationals. … Despite shooting 4 over in the final round, Oregon State is breaking an 11-year NCAA Championship drought. … Texas A&M could only throw out one 75 on a gettable layout on Wednesday as the Aggies fell one shot short of a playoff. Texas A&M had made match play in each of the last two NCAA Championships. … Host New Mexico was third in the field in birdies (60) yet backed up to T-7 along with Stanford, which was inside the top five temporarily during the final round despite playing without its top two players, Henry Shimp and Barclay Brown, because of COVID-19 protocols. … South Carolina’s 5-over final round dropped the Gamecocks from fourth to ninth, but Ryan Hall medaled to earn his trip to Grayhawk as an individual and arguably make him the favorite for the Haskins Award.

Cle Elum Regional

Tumble Creek G&CC, Cle Elum, Washington

Moving on: 1. East Tennessee State (-14), 2. San Francisco (-4), 3. Wake Forest (-2), 4. Pepperdine (-1), 5. Florida (+6)

Just missed: 6. Denver (+9), 7. Washington (+15), 7. Utah (+15), 9. Arizona (+22)

Medalist: Shiso Go, East Tennessee State (-8)

Advancing individual: Tristan Mandur, Utah (-6)

Final scores

Story of the day: After traveling the most miles of any team in regionals this year, Florida almost had to make the 2,888-mile trek back to campus with its third regional miss in its last four tries.

However, thanks to a final-round rally on Wednesday at Tumble Creek, the Gators will be racking up more miles in the air when they travel to the NCAA Championship next week.

Tyler Wilkes and Gio Manzoni sparked the comeback by combining for seven birdies and an eagle on the front nine, and then Ricky Castillo helped finish it with five birdies and an eagle in his final 11 holes, including four birdies in his last six. Castillo also canned a 20-footer for par at No. 17 before capping his 2-under 69 with a 75-foot birdie bomb on the last, which sealed Florida’s fifth-place finish at 6 over, three ahead of sixth-place Denver.

“We were just kind of dragging our feet a little bit there and Ricky just turned on the jets,” Florida head coach J.C. Deacon said. “He loves those big moments.”

The Gators, who also passed Washington and Utah on the final day, started the day six shots back of fifth and later found themselves down by as many as four shots to Denver with Castillo standing on No. 15 tee, so Deacon knows how fortunate his team is to be moving on.

Yet, at the same time, their goals have not changed.

“We think we’re a national-championship-caliber team,” Deacon said. “To be honest, I think we’re all probably a little frustrated that we were even in this position. We just played terrible this week, really across the board. Tons of sloppy mistakes, and we have to be so much better.

“But we got away with it, and now, we know we can get it done when it matters.”

Notable nuggets: Twenty years to the day since its last NCAA regional win, East Tennessee State ended its regional victory drought on Wednesday. And for the first time since 2008, the Bucs are headed to nationals, too. The No. 8 seed, led by medalist Shiso Go and two others in the top 6, won by 10 shots. “We know how good we are,” ETSU head coach Jake Amos said, “and other people are starting to see that now.” … Three players, including senior Tim Widing, tied for 11th for San Francisco, which will play nationals next week for the first time ever. … Alex Fitzpatrick, who tied for second, had the low round all three rounds (67-68-71) for top-seeded Wake Forest. … Joey Vrzich’s sixth top-10 finish of the season, a T-2, powered Pepperdine into the NCAA Championship with a fourth-place finish. … Host Washington counted two 77s and shot 21 over in the final round to fall from third to T-7 with Utah, which dropped two spots on the final day. … Denver’s four counters played the last three holes in 7 over.