Road to Rich Harvest: Late Charge Puts Illini Men’s Golf Team in Finals; Women Tee Off Friday
Excitement for one of the biggest sports events in Kane County history is building fast as the NCAA Division I men’s teams were set Wednesday and the women get ready to tee off Friday at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove.
The event is already breaking ticket-sale records and is receiving unprecedented Golf Channel coverage, but one of the keys to success has always been the potential participation of Illinois schools — which could push attendance into hyperdrive and speed the momentum of NCAA golf.
That happened last week when the Northwestern and University of Illinois Division I women’s teams made the finals and earned an exclamation point Wednesday, when the U of I men’s team made a dramatic final-day charge to finish third in the West Lafayette Regional.
The Illini were actually outside the cut line after nine holes Wednesday but used a dramatic back-nine run to climb the leaderboard at Kampen Course (7,411-yards, Par 72), finishing the day 6-over par for a three-round tally of 14-over.
Junior Nick Hardy (-3) led the way for Illinois, posting consecutive birdies on Wednesday’s back nine to finish the round at 2-under par. Hardy earned co-medalist honors, becoming the fourth NCAA Regional medalist in school history.
“We’ve qualified for the national championship every different way you can imagine for the last 10 years,” head coach Mike Small said. “This was unique because we were treading water for a day-and-a-half and struggling. I feel that the golf course helped us because it’s so difficult coming in. We handled those last five holes with some strength today and finished them off with no doubles. It feels great that we persevered through a sluggish day-and-a-half.”
Northwestern just missed qualifying, losing to Jacksonville in a sudden-death playoff for fifth place. Both teams scored 2-over par from their five players at the 18th, but Jacksonville emerged as the fifth qualifying team after playing the par-four 10th at 1-under par with one birdie and four pars.
The 2017 Division I Men’s Golf Championships final field is set following the conclusion of the three-day regionals on Wednesday. The top five men’s programs from each of the six fields now advance to the finals held May 26-30/31 at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove.
Here’s a look back at the final day from each of the six regionals, courtesy of NCAA.com:
SOURCE: fightingillini.com, ncaa.com
West Lafayette Regional
No. 3 seed UNLV withstood fierce winds at the Kampen Course to win the West Lafayette Regional, shooting a 54-hole total of 8-over par 872, winning by three shots over Auburn and six shots over Illinois.
UNLV, which totaled an 11-over par 299 in the final round, had all five golfers finish 79 (+7) or better in the final round, on a day when the scoring average was 76.49 on the par-72 layout.
In addition to UNLV, Auburn and Illinois advancing, New Mexico (+16) and Purdue (+18) were the final teams to punch their tickets.
Illinois junior Nick Hardy tied for first at 3-under par for the tournament, leading an Illini surge on the back nine. Illinois played the final nine in a combined 5-over par after sitting outside the cutline midway through the round.
“I just tried to will myself to do the best that I can,” Hardy said. “I just had the mindset that I was not going home. And I just took that and was in the moment. I told myself this is the most important thing in your life right now.”
Tying Hardy at the top of the leaderboard was senior Andrej Bevins of New Mexico. Bevins shot a 2-over par 74 on the final day to also finish at 3-under par for the tournament.
Recap courtesy Christopher A. Forman, Purdue Athletics
Baton Rouge Regional
No. 1 seed LSU led wire-to-wire to claim its first ever NCAA Regional title while joining Duke, Oregon, Virginia and Jacksonville in advancing to the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championships in what proved to be a dramatic final round Wednesday at the Baton Rouge Regional held at the University Club.
Sparked by Sam Burns’ fourth individual title of the season, the Tigers finished eight shots clear of the fourth-seeded Blue Devils with a final 54-hole score of 2-over par 866 to defend its home course.
Duke, which positioned itself comfortably inside the top five with the lowest team score of Tuesday’s second round with an even-par 288, closed out its week at 10-over par 874 to qualify for the NCAA Championships as the second-place team.
No. 2 seed Oregon followed in third place at 15-over par, while No. 3 seed Virginia placed fourth at 17-over par and No. 7 seed Jacksonville finished fifth at 19-over par.
Mason Overstreet of Arkansas qualified for the championships as the top individual not among the advancing teams as he placed sixth on the final leaderboard with a score of 2-over par 218 for the week.
The fifth and final team in the field advancing to the NCAA Championships was not decided until well after other teams had cleared out of the University Club as Jacksonville and Northwestern squared off in a sudden-death playoff after tying one another for fifth place with scores of 19-over par 883 for the tournament.
After matching one another with scores of 2-over par from their five players at the 18th, Jacksonville emerged as the fifth qualifying team after playing the par-four 10th at 1-under par with one birdie and four pars.
“We are excited,” Jacksonville coach Mike Blackburn said. “These guys started back in August, we had some lofty goals and they worked their butts off and we’re thrilled. Couldn’t be happier. We’ve played a lot of hard golf courses with a number of good final rounds dating back to the Gator Invitational, where we finished second and I think that gave the boys a lot of confidence.”
Recap courtesy William A. Stafford, LSU Athletics
A wild final day at The Grove ended with a surprise team atop the leaderboard and a local player taking home the individual crown.
The course conditions were the toughest the players saw in the three days, and the scores showed. No team shot under par on the day and only the champion, UCF, finished the tournament under par with a 1-under 285.
The Knights, who entered the day tied for second at four under and eight shots back of Vanderbilt, rallied for a 3-over 291 on Wednesday, while Vanderbilt struggled for a 13-over 301 to finish tied with Kennesaw State and Clemson at one over for the tournament. Lipscomb finished in the fifth spot with a 5-over 869 to advance to the championship.
It was the final hole of the day that aided UCF the most. The Knights finished 5 under on the par-5 18th on the day after three birdies and an eagle.
“I do think [the golf course] fit our team well,” UCF coach Bryce Wallor said. “We’re long off the tee and it’s generous in the driving area, and we just had a good week.
While the team championship changed hands on the final day, the individual title went to the man who led after Tuesday’s second round. Lipscomb junior Dawson Armstrong followed up a course-record 7-under 65 on Tuesday with a 2-over 74 to hold on for the win on Wednesday.
He held off Kennesaw State’s Chris Guglielmo, who had the round of the day (4-under 72) to finish alone in second overall.Troy’s Cam Norman was the top individual not on a team advancing, qualifying him for the national championship after a 3-under 213 three-round score.
Recap courtesy Mark Owens, Middle Tennessee State Athletics
Top-seeded Stanford rallied to earn a share of the Stanford Regional Championships crown with Baylor, as the 54-hole event concluded Wednesday at Stanford Golf Course.
“It was good to defend our home turf and pick up another win,” said Knowles Family Director of Men’s Golf Conrad Ray, who now has led the Cardinal to a 10th appearance in the NCAA Championships in 13 years at the helm. “Our goal was to win the day, and we did it by posting the low team score. We had a lot of solid contributions across the board, and Maverick (McNealy) played solid for us. We’ve all got some added motivation heading into the NCAA Championships.”
The Cardinals trailed Baylor by seven strokes heading into the final round of the three-day event, and went 6-under to match the Bears’ final 17-under total.Pepperdine (-5), Oklahoma (-3) and North Carolina (+3) also advanced. Individual Travis Trace (-2) of North Florida also earned a bid to the national finale.Oklahoma’s Brad Dalke (-12) took home medalist honors, with Baylor’s Cooper Dossey (-9) claiming second. Stanford’s Maverick McNealy (-8) was third in his final home appearance.
Recap courtesy Stanford Athletics
Oklahoma State’s men’s golf team erased a four-shot deficit on Wednesday to earn its NCAA-leading 12th regional title, outlasting host Texas at the Austin Regional by two shots at the University of Texas Golf Club.
With a 14-under score of 270 during its third round, OSU finished with a 54-hole total of 13-under 839. Texas was the runner-up at the par-71, 7,355-yard layout, finishing with an 841 total. Iowa State fired the round of the day, a 21-under 263, to finish third at 845. Ole Miss finished fourth at 854 and Arizona State grabbed the regional’s fifth and final qualifying spot with an 859 total.
“Our guys have been playing well. Today’s round just says we took care of our business,” Cowboys coach Alan Bratton said. “We didn’t make many birdies in the first round, but this team – when they have their game – they make them if they just stay patient. That’s what I was mostly pleased with. We just stayed patient and put up a good score today.”
Iowa State’s Nick Voke used a 61 during his final round to finish at 14-under 199 and five shots clear of the field. Three Cowboys were among the group to share fifth place with senior Zachary Olsen, junior Kristoffer Ventura and freshman Viktor Hovland all getting in with 3-under totals of 210.
Recap courtesy Oklahoma State Athletics
Southern California senior Rico Hoey turned in his third straight 1-under 70 to join junior Sean Crocker and sophomore Justin Suh in the top 5 as No. 1 USC held its lead to win the Sammamish Regional on Wednesday.
The Trojans won their third regional crown at a combined 3-under 849 (280-283-286) despite some front 9 struggles. USC closed with a 5-under back 9 and win by six strokes over second-place Kent State’s 3-over 855. Florida State and Alabama tied for third at 10-over 862 while Penn State earned the final NCAA berth from the regional in fifth at 11-over 863.
Individually, Penn State’s Cole Miller finished with the best score at seven under.USC’s win – its fifth this season and most since five firsts in 2008 — marks its national co-leading 11th straight trip to the NCAA Championships final along with Texas, which advanced as well today. Additionally, USC, Texas and Illinois are the only schools to advance out of NCAA regional play each season since it was split into six sections in 2009.
“This week is always somewhat stressful,” USC coach Chris Zambri said. “We’re very happy it turned out how it did. Now we need to get ourselves ready for a big week in Chicago.”
Recap courtesy USC Athletics