NCAA Men's Golf Championships Day Three Recap
Ball State Wraps Up Play at NCAA Championships
MILTON, Ga. -- The postseason run for the Ball State men’s golf team came to an end Thursday in the final round of stroke play at the NCAA Championships.
The Cardinals posted a team score of 293 to finish the tournament with a 54-hole total of 872 (+32). Ball State placed 30th in a loaded field of the nation's best on the par-70 layout at the Capital City Club Crabapple Course.
The low eight teams at the conclusion of the round qualified for the match play portion of the competition to determine the national champion. Those teams were: California, Georgia Tech, Alabama, Texas, Illinois, New Mexico, UNLV and Arizona State. California's Max Homa was crowned as the individual medalist.
Thursday’s round marked the conclusion of a memorable three-week stretch for Ball State. The Cardinals earned an at-large berth into the NCAA tournament, advanced out of the Pullman Regional in an exciting playoff and then saw their name atop the leaderboard early in the morning wave of Tuesday’s opening round of the championships in Atlanta.
“What an opportunity for our program to be here this week,” Ball State coach Mike Fleck said. “Hopefully these guys have kind of set the standard for what we can do down the road, but this group is pretty special to me. They’ve competed all year long. Our goal was to come here and compete and not just participate, and we did that this week. I’m thankful for what this group has done.”
Thursday also marked the final round in the careers of Ball State seniors Joe Gasser, Tony Lazzara and Alex Stinson, who helped the Cardinals to their first NCAA Regional berth since 1991 and their first NCAA Championships appearance since 1986.
Lazzara was Ball State’s top finisher for the week despite carding a 77 in Thursday’s final round. The Carmel, Ind., product, who started his day at 1-under par and pushed it as low as 2-under with an early birdie, posted the best 54-hole total of his career at 216 (+6). He tied for 93rd in the 156-player field and defeated 17 players ranked in the top 100 in the country.
Stinson finished three shots behind Lazzara at 219 (+9) after posting a third-round 73 that featured a pair of late birdies on his second nine.
Gasser closed his career in style with a birdie on his 18th hole to card his second consecutive round of 72 and match Tyler Merkel for the team’s low round of the day. Gasser finished the tournament with a three-day total of 220 (+10), while Merkel was one shot behind him at 221 (+11).
McCormick Clouser closed the tournament with a 76 on his way to a 54-hole score of 227 (+17).
Ball State went off the 10th tee in the first groups Thursday and spent the entire round shuffling among the final four spots on the leaderboard with South Carolina, St. Mary’s and Kent State.
The Cardinals were the only team in the field ranked outside the top 50 nationally entering the tournament but managed to hang throughout the week with some of the top teams in the country.
Kent State concludes final round at NCAA Men's Golf Championships
MILTON, Ga. – Kent State head men's golf coach Herb Page was already looking forward to next season after the Golden Flashes completed a disappointing week at the 2013 NCAA Championships on Thursday.
A 13-over-par 293 in the third round on the Capital City Club's Crabapple Course dropped Kent State to 28-over for the tournament and a 27th-place finish shared with the University of South Carolina.
The top eight teams in the 30-team field advanced to match play. One year after reaching the match-play portion of the NCAA Championships and eventually finishing fifth in the nation, the Golden Flashes were 26 shots behind eighth place.
"We had pretty high aspirations this year after finishing fifth in the country," Page admitted. "I'm not so sure even if we finished 10th or 12th this week that it wouldn't have been a disappointment. I've had teams like this who sort of didn't finish well at nationals and said let's go work harder to put it together for next year. I've had more than a couple of teams like that. You get a taste of it and say we know what we have to do."
The Golden Flashes will return Corey Conners, Taylor Pendrith, Kyle Kmiecik and Nick Scott to a veteran roster in 2013-14. The only player who will be missing from this week's lineup is senior Kevin Miller, who happens to be the only player in Kent State history to play in four consecutive national championships. That experience will be missed.
"I'm happy for Miller," said Page. "He struggled a little bit today, but on the hardest hole, the ninth hole (Kent State's 18th hole on Thursday after starting round three on the back nine), he ripped something in there from about 200 yards to about six feet and made birdie on his final college hole. It was very emotional watching him walk up there and to give him a big hug on the last hole of his college career."
Miller shot a six-over-par 76 on Thursday. Kmiecik and Scott closed with matching 75's, but after struggling early, both had some memorable moments on the final nine. Kmiecik made back-to-back birdies at holes 6 and 7 while Scott converted three birdies coming in and shot a 1-under-par 34 on his second nine.
Conners had his round at even par before closing with back-to-back bogeys and carding a 72. Pendrith shot 71 for the day's best round by a Kent State player.
"Our two guns (Conners and Pendrith) couldn't get it going," said Page. "They ended up hanging in there and shooting even par and a couple over. I think it was a continuation of yesterday. We don't make any excuses ever, but for some reason we didn't execute very well again today. It was kind of a summary of the week."
The Flashes started slow during Tuesday's first round before closing strong to post a satisfying 2-over-par score of 282. They followed with back-to-back 293's in the final two rounds.
Individually, Pendrith (72-71-71-214) finished tied for 69th at 4-over, Conners (71-72-72-215) finished tied for 85th at 5-over, Scott (68-75-75-218) finished tied for 109th at 8-over, Miller (71-75-76-222) finished tied for 136th at 12-over, and Kmiecik (78-75-75-228) finished tied for 152nd at 18-over.
"Four of our five guys are back," said Page. "Hopefully they learned some things from this week. The week certainly exposed some of our weaknesses. We certainly have some things to work on. But I think a lot of teams would have liked to have been here for a fourth straight year the way we have. You have to look at the good side. Yes, this wasn't a good week for us … but when you look at the big picture, this is a pretty fabulous program. Everyone should be proud of these young men, how they played all year and how they represented us across the country and at a national championship.
"The glass is half full, not half empty."
California finished with the lowest team score after three rounds at 16-under, six shots better than tournament host Georgia Tech.