Tigers beat Florida in playoff
Auburn defends title, becomes first team to repeat in a decade
STATESBORO, Ga. - Ninth-ranked Auburn won its second tournament of the season Sunday, defeating the fifth-ranked Florida Gators in a playoff at the 2011 Chris Schenkel Invitational at the Forest Heights Country Club.
The Tigers successfully defended their 2010 win at the Schenkel, besting the Gators by one stroke in the single-hole playoff. The win was the fourth team title under second-year head coach Nick Clinard and the 54th in school history. Auburn (294-848) and Florida (288-848) completed regulation tied at 16-under-par.
Kyle Kopsick (68-208) led the Tigers in regulation, shooting eight-under to tie for second at the three-day, 54-hole event. The Chicago native's finish was his best since taking second at the 2010 Border Olympics in Laredo, Texas.
"It felt awesome to win in a playoff," Kopsick said. "We used all the close calls we've had this season as motivation to get the win. This weekend was a total team effort. We have given ourselves a chance in every tournament this year to get a win, and it payed off again today."
Blayne Barber (73-211) picked up his sixth top-five finish of the season, tying for fifth at five-under. Niclas Carlsson (76-212) led the Tigers through the first two days in Statesboro, carding opening rounds of 69 and 67. The Enebyberg, Sweden, native finished the day tied for seventh at 4-under.
Cory Gilmer (77-222) counted 2-of-3 rounds at the Schenkel to tie for 40th, and Michael Hebert (78-224) tied for 50th. Competing individually, Dominic Bozzelli (79-222) tied for 40th.
"It's a wonderful feeling to get this win, especially with how it happened," Clinard said. "We've come close in a lot of tournaments this year. I think our guys were just pressing a little too hard down the stretch of some of our last events. They were trying too hard to win. I think this takes the monkey off our back, so to speak, and it will propel us through the rest of the season."
The Tigers held a six-stroke lead over Florida heading into Sunday's final round, but the Gators came out swinging on the front nine, taking a one-stroke lead at the turn.
"We got out to a slow start, missing some short putts right out of the gate," Clinard said. "Niclas (Carlsson) hit into the water on six. We started hitting a few birdies in the middle parts of the round. Kyle (Kopsick) made some huge birdies on 16 and 18. He was just lights out all day."
The Tigers were clutch in the final five holes of the day. Florida, who held the momentum though much of the round, hit a snag on holes 13 though 18, shooting five-over as a team. Conversely, the Tigers closed out the stretch at even-par with the help of birdies on the par-5 18th from Kopsick and Barber.
The team playoff was the first for all five in Auburn's lineup.
"I think they were excited," Clinard said. "They had a little bit of nerves but they wanted to get out there and compete and beat Florida. They are tough to beat. Florida is a good team."
In the playoff, Auburn put together one birdie, three pars and a bogey while Florida carded one birdie, two pars and two bogeys. Barber was responsible for Auburn's birdie while Carlsson sank the winning putt - a three-footer for par in front of a jubilant Auburn gallery.
Despite a furious rally from his Gators, head coach Buddy Alexander was upset that his squad could not finish the comeback.
“We had a good tournament, but a disappointing end,” Alexander said. “In any sport, there’s a lot of momentum going into a playoff, but we couldn’t find a way to win. This was a big event and would have been a positive win for us.”
The team playoff was the first at the Schenkel since 1999 when Clemson defeated Georgia after a 54-hole draw in regulation. The last repeat winner was Georgia, who won in 2000 and 2001.
No. 19 Virginia (298-862) placed third followed by No. 12 LSU (293-858), North Florida (290-863), NC State (295-865), North Carolina (296-880), Minnesota (299-880), Georgia Southern (298-880), Tennessee (303-881), Ole Miss (287-883), Notre Dame (310-888), Vanderbilt (307-896), Kentucky (298-896) and Mississippi State (311-916).
Florida's Bank Vongvanij (73-207) earned individual medalist honors, shooting nine-under par.