Clemson Captures Improbable U.S. Collegiate Title
April 9, 2009
Courtesy of Clemson Athletics
Clemson, S.C. - Phillip Mollica fired a three-under par 69, and Luke Hopkins and Kyle Stanley added one-under par rounds of 71 to lead Clemson to its greatest comeback victory in history on Tuesday at the United States Collegiate. The event was played in weather that was in the low 40s with light snow falling at various times during the round on the par 72 Lakeside Course at the Golf Club of Georgia in Alpharetta, GA.
Clemson was in sixth place, 13 shots behind Stanford entering the final round. But the Tigers shot four-under-par 284 as a team on Tuesday, the only school in the 15-team field to break par. Clemson finished with a 54 hole score of 876, two shots better than Stanford. Host school Georgia Tech, who shot an even par 288 on Tuesday, finished third at 881, while number-one ranked Georgia was fourth at 883.
The 15-team field included each of the top 11 teams in the latest Golf World Coaches poll and 13 of the 15 were ranked in the top 25. It was Clemson's first win since the 2006 United States Collegiate, which was played on the same Golf Club of Georgia Lakeside Course.
The comeback was the greatest in Clemson history by five shots. The previous record took place at the 1988 Wofford Invitational in Spartanburg, SC. Clemson trailed Wake Forest by eight strokes entering the final round before gaining victory in that event 21 years ago.
It was a wild ride for Larry Penley's Tigers for the three days. Clemson had the lead after the first day when the Tigers shot 283, five under par. On Monday, Clemson shot a 309 as a team, tied for the second worst team score in the field. Then Tuesday, Clemson came back with a 284 score for the best score in the field by four shots.
Mollica and Hopkins were the leaders of the comeback on Tuesday. Both golfers improved their rounds by 12 shots over the previous day. Hopkins had an 83 on Monday, while Mollica had an 81.
Mollica's round included a team best five birdies and just two bogeys in recording the 69. He played the last four holes at two under par, including Clemson's only birdie on the par five ninth hole, the final hole of the day for Clemson. Mollica jumped from 64th to 32nd in the final standings thanks to his three under par round.
Hopkins, playing in just his second tournament of the year, was five under par on his first nine, holes 10-18 on the course. His opening nine 31 gave Clemson a jump in the standings to second place at the time. He finished with a 40 on the front, but his one under par score was key to the Clemson victory. Hopkins finished 44th overall in the field of 78 golfers with a 228 score.
Stanley was Clemson's top finisher in the tournament with a 219 score, good enough for ninth place. He had rounds o 69-79-71, an example of the weather conditions on Monday. It was his fifth top 10 finish of the year and the 17th of his three- year career.
Ben Martin was Mr. Consistency for Clemson throughout the tournament. He had a 73 on Tuesday and finished 11th with a 220 score. His Tuesday round included a triple bogey on the 17th hole, the toughest hole throughout the tournament. But, he came back strong with a two under par final nine holes. He was the last Clemson player on the course with a counting score, and he responded with a pair of pars after Clemson had taken a two-shot lead over Stanford.
David May was Clemson's top golfer over the first two rounds. Ironically his score did not count towards the team score on Tuesday as he finished with a 78. But he finished 11th overall with a 220 score. His opening round 67 was the best round by a Clemson golfer for the entire event.
Clemson will return to the course for the ACC Tournament at Old North State Club in New London, NY April 17-19.