SIMPSONVILLE, Ky. – The Chico State golf is on the doorstep of an NCAA championship dream.
The Wildcats defeated Central Missouri 3-2 in the medal/match play quarterfinals and Cal State Stanislaus 3-1-1 in the semifinals Friday to earn a berth in Saturday’s national title tilt.
Along the way, some of the steps have caused them to stumble, and others, like Friday, they’ve seemed to tackle two at a time. It’s all led to a three-year climb that could end Saturday with the Wildcats on top of the world.
|DII MEN’S GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP|
|Day Four: Chico State fights into final|
|Day Three: Wildcats hold on to lead|
|Day Two: Chico State takes lead|
|Day One: Central Oklahoma sits in first|
|Leaderboard: Team | Individual|
|• Field announced|
|• Championship history|
“When you never doubt yourself good things happen, and all of the guys totally believed we would be here,” said Wildcats Head Coach T.L. Brown. “We’re going to focus on playing the golf course the best we can tomorrow and hopefully bring home that championship home to Chico.”
Nova Southeastern is the last obstacle standing in the way. The Sharks have been the top-ranked team in the nation for much of the season. They finished second, four strokes behind Chico State, in the stroke-play portion of the championships, and then defeated South Carolina-Aiken and Central Oklahoma in match play Friday.
Circling Sharks are nothing new to the Wildcats. Two years ago, they led heading into the final round of the NCAA championships in Indianapolis, but stumbled down the stretch and finished third.
Last year, the Wildcats rallied back to grab one of the five NCAA championship berths at the Super Regional before learning that an incorrectly signed scorecard had ended their championship dreams.
“We’ve worked really hard. And this group of seniors, with what happened to us last year, has been really motivated,” said Brown. “We talked a lot about what happened at the Super Regional. It was a gift what happened to us. Everything we’ve been through has let us right here to where we are today. We’re right on the doorstep.”
All five Wildcats – Eric Frazzetta, Kyle Souza, Kevin Rei, Bobby Bucey and Chris Doyle – contributed to the team’s wins Friday. Souza, the defending NCAA individual champion, carded a combined 9-under par to win both of his matches. The team’s only non-senior, sophomore Chris Doyle, won twice as well. Frazzetta and Rei each went 1-1, and Bucey battled back after a trying morning round to fire a 1-under par 71 and tie in the afternoon.
“Kyle’s play was phenomenal today. He found his golf swing. He definitely brought it,” said Brown. “Chris Doyle was phenomenal. He’s really stepped up. His emotional intelligence is better than I’ve ever seen it. He really wants to get it done for these four seniors. Rei and Bucey – I’m really proud of those guys coming back this afternoon after they didn’t get it done early. And Eric got the job done this morning and really battled this afternoon.”
Doyle, Souza and Frazzetta each dominated their early morning matches as the top-seeded Wildcats beat No. 8 seed Central Missouri 3-2 in the quarterfinals. Souza shot a 4-under par 68 to win by five strokes. Frazzetta played even-par golf and won by six shots. And Chris Doyle delivered a 1-over par 73 and won by nine strokes.
Rei’s quintuple bogey at the fourth hole derailed his chances. He finished 4-over par and lost by five strokes. Bucey bogeyed his last hole to finish 6-over par and lost by a stroke.
Chico State and Cal State Stanislaus have both been ranked among the nation’s top 10 for nearly the entire season. Both teams have finished first in seven events this season. The Wildcats won the California Collegiate Athletic Association Championship and Cal State Stanislaus came back the next week to nip the Wildcats at the West/Central Super Regional.
The Wildcats got the last laugh Friday. Souza shot 5-under par to win a compelling contest by one shot against Rob Damschen. Rei (+1) played steady golf from start to finish to win by four strokes. Doyle was 3-over par and won by two strokes. Bucey battled Paul Smith shot-for-shot and tied him at 1-under par. Frazzetta got off to a rough start with bogeys on three of his first five holes and never found a way to get back into the match.
Chico State won the stroke-play portion of the NCAA championships to earn the top seed in medal/match play. Cal State Stanislaus, the No. 4 seed, defeated Georgia College & State to move into the semifinals.
In medal/match play, players are paired to face off for the best 18-hole score. One point will be awarded to the winner of each individual match and the first team to three points wins. Ties will be broken by overall team score.