STILLWATER, Okla. – The 2011 NCAA Men’s Golf Championship trophy will be headed to the state of Georgia on Sunday night.
Which campus it goes to is still to be determined.
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Augusta State, the defending champions, out-lasted host Oklahoma State in a gut-wrenching round of match-play golf on Saturday afternoon. Carter Newman tapped in a putt on the first extra hole to beat Sean Einhaus and give the Jaguars a 3-2 victory.
Earlier, the Georgia Bulldogs, champs in 2005, edged Duke, 3-2, meaning Sunday’s 18-hole final will include two squads from the Peach State.
“We got that tee time on the last day. That is what we were looking for,” said Augusta State head coach Josh Gregory. “We won a tough one [Saturday] and we’ll have another one [Sunday]. It’s a pretty special match-up to be able to play your neighbor [in the NCAA finals].”
The Jaguars, who beat the Cowboys in the 2010 NCAA final, got a monster performance from junior Patrick Reed, who may or may not have been carrying a Brown Thrasher, the state bird of Georgia, in his pocket.
Reed, a junior from Augusta, started throwing darts as soon as he left the driving range and went through 2010 U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein, 8 and 7. Reed quickly went 3-up with three precision approaches. Uihlein drained a 15-foot birdie on No. 5 to get back to 2-up, but Reed responded on No. 6 with another deadly approach and birdie.
The par-3 7th hole saw Reed’s iron softly land within 5 feet eventually leading Uihlein to concede the hole and go down by four.
Reed birdied Nos. 8 and 9 and the lead was 6-up through 9 holes as a stunned orange-clad gallery quietly followed.
“I hit it great today. I felt really comfortable with my golf game,” said Reed. “This was by far one of the most memorable moments we’ve ever had. Last year was memorable, but to come here and play Oklahoma State on their home course with all their fans. What was it? One to every 100 of their fans to ours? It’s a pretty special moment.”
“To beat the best amateur in the world 8 and 7 on his home course is unbelievable,” said Gregory. “You would never dream of that, but he is playing as well as he’s ever played. The only thing he has ever had problems with in the past is getting too jacked up. I knew he would be tough to beat if he kept putting it in the fairway and hitting his irons the way he was.”
Cowboy rookie Talor Gooch continued his strong play this week, blasting Ollie Bengtsson 7 and 5, to give his team its first point of the afternoon. Gooch, a native of Midwest City, Okla., beat Ohio State’s Alex Redfield 4 and 2 on Friday.
Gooch birdied the first two holes on Saturday and bogeys by Bengtsson on Nos. 8 and 10 helped Gooch’s advantage grow to 6-up. A birdie on the 13th sealed the deal.
Morgan Hoffman edged Mitch Krywulycz, 1-up, to give the hosts a second point. Hoffman, a junior, led 3-up entering No. 16 but back-to-back bogeys sent the match to the final hole with the Cowboy just 1-up. But Krywulycz sent his approach on the par-5 into the thick stuff and Hoffman’s slick pitch from the front edge forced the Jaguar senior to concede.
As Hoffman and Krywulycz walked up 18, the Einhaus-Newman match headed back out to No. 14 for extra holes.
Newman rallied on No. 17 with a massive 30-foot par putt to send it to 18 all-square. Einhaus drained a fist-pumping 15-footer much to the delight of the partisan crowd on No. 18 but Newman calmly hit a 5-foot knee-knocker to force the extra holes.
“Today was a crazy day,” said Newman. “Sean and I were close all day. It was just a wild ride. [No. 16] just turned into a slugfest after we both went into the woods. He makes a 5 and I make a 7, but it’s match play so you go to the next hole.
“That made 17 tee a lot harder. Sean hit a great drive and I didn’t. I chipped it out and gave myself that putt. I had a great line on the putt and I knew I needed it. Without a doubt, it was the most clutch putt I’ve ever made. When that went in, I knew I had a chance because I had played 18 well all week.”
Augusta’s other point came from Henrik Norlander, who beat Kevin Tway. When Tway, a senior, bogeyed No. 17 Norlander picked up a 3 and 1 victory. Tway led after a Norlander bogey on No. 2 but Norlander tied the match on No. 3 and took a lead he would never relinquish on No. 7.
Georgia and Duke went about their business outside the chaos of the hometown contingent.
“We kind of got out there without really anybody watching us. All the hoopla was happening behind us,” said Georgia coach Chris Haack. “The last couple of days have been nice.
“This is what these guys gear up for all year long and [Sunday] is going to be pretty special with two Georgia schools going at it.”
Duke snuck into the final eight on Thursday with a solid final round of stroke play. On Friday they took down UCLA. But the run ended against a Bulldog team with three steady seniors.
Harris English beat Blue Devil sophomore Brinson Paolini 5 and 4. Senior No. 2, Russell Henley, beat sophomore Tim Gornik 3 and 2. Haack’s third point came thanks to sophomore Bryden MacPherson, who beat freshman Austin Cody 2 and 1.
Duke got wins from sophomore Julian Suri and the squad’s lone senior, Wes Roach.
“It feels really good,” said English. “It’s what we’ve been gearing up for all year. We’ve got three seniors and this is our final tournament. Having this opportunity really means a lot to us.”
Added Henley, “This is the closest we’ve been to winning a national title. You’re gunning for it every year, but this is the closest we’ve been. We’re going to try to enjoy it. A lot of people may get tight, but tomorrow is my last day ever playing college golf, so I’m going to enjoy it.”
Since winning the 2005 title the Bulldogs have qualified for the finals five of the last six years, with 2010 the exception. In 2009 Georgia lost to Arkansas in the semifinals.
The final match tees off at 1 p.m. ET.