May 19, 2012
GREENSBORO, N.C. - The Lamar University men's golf team saved its best for last Saturday at the NCAA Greensboro Regional as the Cardinals fired a final round 1-over-par 289 to finish fourth and qualify for the 2012 NCAA Championship.
The Cardinals started the day in a tie for fourth place and shot the third best round of the final day to secure their fifth trip to the NCAA Championship which is set for May 29-June 3 at The Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif.
Lamar's last trip to the NCAA Championship came in 2007 when the Cardinals tied for third in the nation. The Cards also made trips in 1985, 1986 and 2006.
"I am so proud of what this team has accomplished," said LU head coach Brian White moments after Saturday's final round. "I've had higher ranked teams who weren't able to move on to the NCAA Championship so this is something these guys can be proud of."
The top five teams in each of the six regionals earned a trip to the NCAA Championship. No. 32 ranked Liberty took home the title in Greensboro after closing with a 292 team total on the par 72, 7,271-yard Grandover Resort East Course for a 54-hole score of 868 (+4).
No. 17 Florida had the best final round, shooting a 3-under-par 285 for a final score of 871 (+7) and a second place finish. No. 5 ranked Auburn, the top seed in the regional, finished third at 874 (+10), with the Cardinals at 877 (+13) and Tulsa at 878 (+14) all advancing.
"We just played a solid round today," said White. "When the day started, a lot of teams had a shot at the top five so it was just a shootout today. We beat a lot of ranked teams who won't be moving on so I'm just really happy with the finish."
Luke Jerling, who was named the 2012 Southland Conference Freshman of the Year, was the Cardinals' top finisher in his first ever regional appearance. After opening with a 75 on Thursday, Jerling posted back-to-back 71s to finish in a tie for seventh at 1-over-par 217.
Jerling played a flawless back nine in round three, carding seven pars and a pair of birdies after making the turn at 1-over-par. The native South African had Lamar's best finish in a NCAA Regional since Hughes Joannes tied for fourth at the 2009 Southwest Regional.
"Luke has had a fantastic year and he is just playing amazing right now," said White. "He has no fear and is just excited to be in the hunt. He wants to be out on the course with a chance to win and that's what makes him such a great player."
While Jerling led the Cardinals, the story of the final day was redshirt junior Erik Knudsen. After carding a pair of 79s on the first two days, Knudsen matched Jerling with a 1-under-par 71 to help keep Lamar in the top five.
Knudsen, who moved up to a tie for 52nd with a 3-round total of 229 (+13), got off to a blistering start Saturday. After four straight pars to open the round, Knudsen birdied three of the next four to move to 3-under. He would take three bogeys after that, but walked off the course with a birdie on the 18th hole to match his lowest round this season.
"That was huge today," White said of Knudsen's performance. "He hadn't been in our lineup for most of the spring, but at some point one of the top four was going to have an off day and we would need him. He played fantastic and that was the difference. You have to have five golfers playing well to compete at this level."
Senior M.J. Daffue didn't have his best round Saturday, but the two-time First-Team All-Southland Conference selection still finished in a tie for 13th. Daffue opened the tournament with a 70, before posting rounds of 73 and 76 for a 219 total (+3).
Daffue finished the front nine at 1-over-par and birdied the 10th hole to get back to even. However, the 2011 Southland Conference Player of the Year had five bogeys on the back nine as he finished with his worst round in over a month.
Fellow seniors Kevin Hesbois and Xavier Feyaerts are each appearing in their third NCAA Regional. Hesbois also had his finest round Saturday as he finished at 1-under-par to tie for 16th place in the 75-player field. He carded a pair of 75s to open the tournament for a 3-round score of 221 (+5).
Hesbois' scorecard featured three birdies, two bogeys and 13 pars Saturday.
Feyaerts closed his final regional with a 77 for a 3-round total of 226 (+10) and a tie for 39th. A second-team all-conference selection this year, Feyaerts shot a 75 in Thursday's opening round before a 75 on Friday.
For the first time this week, Feyaerts struggled on the opening nine. He took a double bogey on the first hole, and added one on the sixth, to finish his front nine with a 4-over-par 40. Feyaerts would steady himself on the back with just two bogeys, adding one birdie for a 1-over-par 37.
In addition to the top five teams, the highest finishing individual not on one of those teams also qualifies for the NCAA Championship. Three players tied for medalist honors at 3-under-par, including Vaita Guillaume of Campbell, Matt Schovee of SMU and Liberty's Robert Karlsson.
While Karlsson moved on with his team, the other two had to face a sudden death playoff to decide who would get the individual spot. Guillaume won on the first playoff hole to earn the berth and close a disappointing day for the Mustangs who started round 3 in second place.
No. 20 Duke was the first team out as the Blue Devils finished three strokes behind Tulsa in sixth place with an 881 total. No. 41 SMU dropped all the way to seventh at 883, followed by No. 9 UNLV (888), No. 28 Indiana (894), No. 44 Texas Tech (895), Charlotte (907), Louisiana-Lafayette (916) and Mount St. Mary's and George Washington who tie for 13th at 928.