ATLANTA – The Auburn Tigers entered the week ranked 16th in the country, behind all three of their opponents in the East Lake Cup. The Tigers started slow on Monday in stroke play and claimed the fourth seed in match play. But when the dust settled, the Tigers took down top-seeded Duke and their Iron Bowl rivals, Alabama, to claim the East Lake Cup.
None of the matches made it to the 18th green on Wednesday as each of the first three Tigers out claimed victory. It was sophomore Brandon Mancheno’s par on 16 that clinched the trophy for the Tigers.
“It feels great, especially to beat Alabama,” Mancheno said, who rebounded from an 80 in the stroke-play portion of the tournament to lock down the final point. “We did our job today as a team and we all wanted this badly.
"I kind of tossed Monday in the trash and just went out, and it was a new golf course, a new couple of days and I was trying to get a point for my team.”
“I think we had been trending in the right direction,” said senior Jacob Solomon, who claimed his match, 2 and 1, on Wednesday over sophomore Davis Shore. “Finally we kind of got it figured out, and I think here it showed up and we've got some killers when it comes to match play. These guys love competition. I’m just super proud of the team.”
The final round between Auburn and Alabama was a repeat of the finals at the SEC Championship earlier in 2018. The Tigers claimed the conference title, winning three of five matches at Sea Island Golf Club. Senior Trace Crowe went 3-0 at the SEC Championship with a win over Alabama senior Davis Riley. The same pair was the opening match of the afternoon, with Crowe going over 2 and 1.
“He’s an all-SEC guy. He just hasn’t swung the golf club very well, and he’s ended up missing it both ways,” Auburn coach Nick Clinard said. “And to come out here and arguably be playing one of the best amateurs in the world and to win on 17 green, he was just tough.”
“I was kind of spraying it a little bit, but I kept making putts and kept staying in there and couldn’t let him get away,” Crowe said. “And at the end I kind of got up on him, got a couple up on him, and got the W.”
Solomon won both of his matches at the East Lake Cup and only trailed for two holes in between both rounds. He won the first hole on Wednesday and never lost the lead, claiming the second point for Auburn.
“It’s just really cool to end my senior year this way, with a big win on national TV,” Solomon said. “I think it’s a huge step for our program, too, and just kind of solidifies us as one of the best teams in the SEC.”
The win closes the fall slate for both schools and marks Auburn’s first win of the season. “I think it’s a wonderful feeling heading into the offseason because we’ve got to get back to work this off season,” Clinard said.
But still, it’s a victory in a prestigious tournament over an archrival. “Feels good," Clinard added. "No doubt about it.”
Duke and Oklahoma State faced off in the consolation match, as top two teams in the country. The Blue Devils claimed their third point with senior Shrish Dwivedi’s birdie on 18 over senior Zach Bauchou.
“You want to be able to play the best. Right now, they’re the number one team for a reason. They won the national championship. They’ve got great players,” Duke coach Jamie Green said. “So to be able to look at them in the eye, face to face, play the same golf course and see how we stack up, I know they were thrilled for that opportunity.”
Duke sophomore Adrien Pendaries continued his big performance in match play with a 4-and-3 win over senior Matthew Wolff to earn the first point. Junior Chandler Eaton followed with a 3-and-2 win over sophomore Austin Eckroat.
Oklahoma State earned wins from senior Hayden Wood and junior Viktor Hovland. The highlight for the Cowboys came from Hovland on the par-3 11th. His 6-iron landed just short of the hole and rolled in for his first ever ace.
“I saw it trickle up to the hole and thought, ‘This might be it,’ and then just saw it drop, so that was pretty sweet,” he said.