Men's golf ties for fourth at regionals, advances to NCAA Championship finals
The No. 24 Arizona State men's golf team, which began the day one stroke out of qualifying position, shot a 3-under par 285 in the final round of the South Central-Colorado NCAA Regional to tie for fourth place and advance to the NCAA Championship Finals. Senior Scott Pinckney, who took second place, was a consistent force for the Sun Devils throughout the three-day tournament and helped ASU finish at 7-under par 857 (282-290-285).
"Every year there is more competition and more teams capable of winning, so it certainly doesn't get any easier," head coach Randy Lein says. "Finishing fifth becomes a bigger deal each year and fortunately for us, we were able to get it done today."
Pinckney began the day in a tie for sixth, but fired a 4-under par 68 in the third round to finish with a 9-under par 207 (69-70-68). He recorded five birdies and just one bogey on the final 18, and moved within one stroke of tying Kevin Tway of Oklahoma State for individual medalist honors.
This marks the highest finish in three NCAA Regionals for Pinckney, who tied for 10th at the 2010 Southeast Regional and tied for 31st at the 2009 West Regional. He was the runner-up one other time this season, at the USC Collegiate Invitational in early March, and has now placed in the top 10 a career-high five times this season.
"I'm really proud of what Scott's done over the last few days," Lein says. "To come out and play the way he did in what was potentially the final tournament of his collegiate career is a testament to his dedication and drive to succeed."
Junior Philip Francis also carded a 4-under par 68 on the third day to move up 30 spots on the leaderboard, from 46th to 16th, and ended the regional at 1-under par 215 (74-73-68). His 14 birdies, including five in the final round, were the fourth most among all competitors.
"Scott and Philip's play was spectacular today," Lein says. "We needed a spark out there and they provided it."
Senior Jesper Kennegard tied for 24th with an even par 216 (69-72-75) following a 3-over par 75 in the third round. Kennegard, who won the 2009 West Regional with a 12-under par 204, participated in regional play in all four of his seasons at ASU.
Senior James Byrne shot a 5-over par 77 to finish in a tie for 56th at 6-over par 222 (70-75-77) and senior Thomas Buran tallied his best round of the tournament, a 2-over par 74, and ended the regional tied for 69th at 13-over par 229 (80-75-74).
The top five teams, plus the top individual from a team outside the top 5 or from 10 competing here as solo performers, advanced to the NCAA Championship Finals in Stillwater, May 31-June 5.
After Oklahoma State, Georgia, in third place entering the final round, was the only other team to hold on to its place in the top five. No.11-seeded Colorado State caught fire early and rode it to a second-place finish, posting a 9-under par 279 for the final round and a 13-under 851 (283-289-279) for the three days. The best team score in the final round was recorded by Northwestern, as the Wildcats moved from eighth into third after a 12-under par 276 gave them a 9-under par 855 (293-286-276). Georgia slipped one spot into a tie for fourth with ASU at 7-under par 857 (294-276-287).
Cal Poly's Geoff Gonzalez recorded a final round 66 for a 6-under par 210 total, tying him for sixth. He was the top individual on a non-advancing team and will also travel to Stillwater for the finals.
There were no delays due to the weather for the first time in four days as heavy rains, wind and/or lightning in the area caused stoppages during the first two rounds as well as Wednesday's practice round.
The Sun Devils will travel to Stillwater, Okla., May 31-June 5, for its 18th NCAA Championship Finals trip.
IT ISN'T EASY: Arizona State is one of just a eight teams to qualify for the past four NCAA Championships (2008-2011). UCLA, USC, Oklahoma State, Florida, Texas A&M, Illinois and Texas are the others.
START IT OVER: Back in 2002, Randy Lein saw ASU's 18-year NCAA championship consecutive streak snapped in a season that had injuries and bad luck. ASU is back in the saddle with nine straight counting its 2011 appearance, and to show you how competitive the NCAA men's golf championships is, that streak already is tied for the third-best active streak, Only four teams have made the NCAAs in each of the past nine seasons.
CURRENT CONSECUTIVE NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP APPEARANCES
Oklahoma State, 1947-2011, 65
Florida, 2001-2011, 11
Arizona State, 2003-2011, 9
UCLA, 2003-2011, 9
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP APPEARANCES: ASU has now made 18 NCAA Championship appearances in Randy Lein's 19 seasons (1993-2011), tied for the second-best mark in the nation with Florida.
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS (1993-2011)
Arizona State and Florida-18
Georgia, North Carolina and UNLV-13