May 31, 2012
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. - The Lamar University golf team saved its best for last as the Cardinals recorded their lowest round of the 2012 NCAA Championship on Thursday to improve to 25th in the nation.
The Cardinals proved they belonged among the nation's best as they fired a final round 290 (+6) at the par-71, 7,292-yard Riviera Country Club. The 54-hole stroke play portion of the tournament concluded Thursday with the top eight teams continuing in a match play tournament to determine this year's national champion.
Lamar opened with a 299 in Tuesday's first round and followed that up with a 303 on Wednesday. The Cards, who opened the tournament ranked 50th in the country, shot 892 (+40) for the three rounds to finish three strokes ahead of No. 30 East Carolina (895).
The Cardinals also finished ahead of No. 36 TCU (897), No. 38 Memphis (901), No. 34 UAB (902) and unranked Tulsa (918). Lamar, which was making its sixth appearance in the national tournament, tied for third in 2007 for its best ever finish.
"This was definitely a good week playing on the greatest course in the history of the NCAA Championship," said LU head coach Brian White. "We played well today but we just got off to a start Tuesday that was too hard for us to come back from."
Senior M.J. Daffue led the Cardinals' efforts to cap his outstanding three-year career at Lamar. Daffue shot a final round 1-over-par 72 to post a 54-hole score of 217 (+4) and a tie for 29th place. The native South African has twice been named first-team All-Southland Conference, was the 2011 Southland Conference Player of the Year and was recently named to the 2012 PING All-Central Region Team.
Starting on the back nine Thursday, Daffue made the turn at 3-over-par after a bogey and a double bogey. He would then run off three birdies over the first six holes on the front nine to get back to even-par before closing with a bogey.
Daffue ends his three-year Lamar career with five career individual victories, including three this season. He was twice individual medalist at the Southland Conference Tournament and became the first player to successfully defend his league crown since 1979.
"M.J. played fantastic this week," said White. "He really made just three mistakes all week or he could have been in the top 10. This golf course was so hard that you couldn't come back from too many mistakes, but he still hung in there and was able to come back."
Thomas Pieters of Illinois won the individual national title after finishing the 54-hole stroke play event at 5-under-par. Pieters shot rounds of 69-68-71 for a 208 total and a three stroke victory over Florida's Tyler McCumber and TCU's Julien Brun. Only six players finished the tournament under par.
No. 2 ranked Alabama led wire-to-wire to earn the top seed in the match play format. The Crimson Tide recorded an 859 total (+7) to finish two strokes ahead of No. 5 UCLA. Top ranked Texas shot an even-par round Thursday to move into third at 869 (+17).
No. 3 California and No. 10 San Diego State tied for fourth with 871 totals (+19). No. 8 Washington placed sixth at 872 (+20) and No. 7 Oregon was seventh at 873 (+21). No. 17 Kent State and No. 19 Florida State tied for eighth at 875 (+23) and would play a sudden death tiebreaker to determine which team would get the final spot in the match play field.
LU senior Xavier Feyaerts had the best closing round for the Cardinals after carding an even-par 71 on Thursday. Feyaerts, who also posted rounds of 75 and 78, finished tied for 77th in the 156-man field with a 224 total (+11).
A second-team all-conference selection this year, Feyaerts recorded three birdies and three bogeys in the final round of his four-year Lamar career. Feyaerts helped the Cardinals win a pair of Southland Conference team titles and was also the 2009 SLC Freshman of the Year.
Lamar also has the 2012 Southland Freshman of the Year in Luke Jerling. Just as the team did as a whole, Jerling posted his best round Thursday with a 2-over-par 73. Jerling opened the tournament with a respectable 74, but also struggled to an 80 in round two to finish tied for 105th with a 227 total (+14).
Jerling, who had three birdies and five bogeys in his final round, was the only Cardinal not to take worse than a bogey in the entire tournament. The native South African finished his first collegiate season with an individual win at the Wolfpack Spring Open and a spot on the All-Southland Conference second-team.
Senior Kevin Hesbois also closes out his four-year career which saw him win a pair of Southland Conference team titles and earn all-league honors twice. Hesbois tied for 130th after carding rounds of 76-75-80=231 (+18).
Hesbois opened play Thursday with a double bogey and took four bogeys on his front nine to make the turn at 6-over-par. He would eagle the par-5 first hole, but doubled the second to halt his momentum. Hesbois finished his final round with seven bogeys.
Lamar's final golfer was redshirt junior Erik Knudsen who tied for 148th after rounds of 82-79-74=235 (+22). Knudsen was able to card five birdies at Riviera Country Club on Thursday, but also took a double bogey and six bogeys.
Knudsen came through for the Cardinals at the NCAA Greensboro Regional by tying his season-low score with a 71 in the final round of the tournament as the Cardinals placed fourth to qualify for the NCAA Championship.
"This group was better than our record showed," said White. "We are a much better team than where we are ranked and we showed that by getting all the way to the NCAA Championship. This is a great accomplishment for these players and I'm proud of the team."