June 3, 2010

By Bucky Dent
Special to NCAA.com

OOLTEWAH, Tenn. -- For two days, it appeared that Texas Tech would be one of the biggest disappointments at the NCAA Division I men's golf championships.

But the Red Raiders finished with a flourish in Thursday's third round at The Honors Course and will stick around for Friday's match play quarterfinals.

Firing the day's low round, an 8-under par 280, Texas Tech climbed all the way from a 19th place tie to seventh with a three-day aggregate of 3-over par of 867 strokes. The top eight teams advance to match play. After the end of play on Thursday, three teams were tied for eighth and a playoff was scheduled for Friday morning.

Oklahoma State (850) earned the top seed for match ply by finishing at 5-under 283 Thursday, and the Cowboys ended 54 holes at 14-under, four better than FSU (854).

"You throw all your individual ambitions out the window and try to go as low as you can," said junior Matt Smith. "I tried to make as many birdies as I could out there."

Smith and Chris Ward led the Red Raiders' onslaught with 5-under par 67s. Ward notched a half-dozen birdies, while Smith bagged four birdies and kicked in an eagle on the par-5 11th.

Tyler Weworski kicked in a 70 which included just one bogey, boosting Texas Tech into a match-up with second-seeded Florida State in the first day of match play on Friday.

Texas Tech coach Greg Sands was thrilled that his team, which entered the tournament as the 10th overall seed and shot a brutal 302 in the first round, didn't let a bad round waylay their championship aspirations.

"We played great," he said. "We played so bad in the first round that we were due for something. It just all came together today. I am proud of the guys fighting until the end."

While Texas Tech took advantage of a remarkable single-day performance, Oklahoma State was slow and steady over three days in earning the top seed.

"It's what we came here to do," OSU coach Mike Holder said. "And that we came from behind to do it was even better. It's the second straight tournament we've done it."

It's also the second consecutive year the Cowboys have captured the top seed for match play. It didn't mean a thing last year as they were upset by No. 8 Georgia, 3-2.

Asked if he would address that crushing defeat with his team before starting match play, Holder said he wouldn't have to say a word.

"There are three guys who were in that locker room last year after we lost," Holder said. "They know what's ahead."

OSU will play the winner of a three-way playoff among Arizona State, San Diego and Stanford in the quarterfinals. Those teams will play at 8 a.m Friday after finishing in a tie at 4-over.

In other quarterfinal matchups, No. 3 Georgia Tech takes on sixth-seeded Augusta State and No. 4 Washington meets fifth-seeded Oregon in an all-Pac 10 matchup.

Finishing Strong: Diego Velasquez saved the best for last.

In the last competitive round of his college career, the Oregon State senior tied the course record with a 6-under par 66.

The bogey-free round was threatened on 18 when he pulled his second shot into some greenside rough, but he chipped out to 10 feet and then drained his par putt.

"This feels amazing," he said. "Just getting here was big, but doing this is even bigger."

Velasquez became the third player in less than 24 hours to match the course record.

Alex Ching of the University of San Diego and Henry Smart of Virginia pulled it off in Wednesday's second round.

Velasquez was left wishing he had more golf to play, but his teammates couldn't keep pace. The Beavers finished their 54 holes in an aggregate 11-over par, tying Kent State for 18th place.

"It's a little bittersweet," Velasquez said. "We struggled to have all five guys playing well at the same time."