BOWLING GREEN, Ky.—The Texas A&M men’s golf team earned its fifth straight trip to the NCAA Championships with a second-place finish on Saturday afternoon at the NCAA Bowling Green Regional.
The Aggies wrapped up the weekend with a 4-under 860 (295-278-287), one shot back of champion Chattanooga and one of just three teams to break par.
“We played fabulously again today,” head coach J.T. Higgins said. “The course was tougher today, the greens were really firmed up and they were quicker with really difficult pin locations. It was set up as hard as you can set it up and the boys really responded well. They played great. It was a tough loss, but Chattanooga played great. I thought we had a really, really successful regional. The goal was to advance and we accomplished that—we’re now just looking forward to getting to L.A. and making another run at a national championship.”
The Mocs took the team crown by turning in the best round of the day, a 4-under, and were led by medalist Stephan Jaeger who went 13-under for the week.
“Jaeger shot 67, 66 in the last two rounds, and it’s tough to beat a team when someone is playing that well,” Higgins said. “They had three chip-ins and a hole-in-one, and we lost by a shot. You just have to tip your hat to them and hopefully we’ll get them next week in L.A.”
The top-seed, UCLA, finished third at 1-under, with a distant Virginia Tech (+10) and Memphis (+12) grabbing the final two qualifying spots. Arkansas (+15) missed the cut by three strokes, while North Texas (+16), Northwestern (+17), Iowa State (+22), Colorado State (+22), Clemson (+23), Jacksonville State (+45), Penn (+62) and Alabama State (+106) rounded out the field.
True freshman Ty Dunlap led the way for the second straight postseason tournament, finishing in a tie for third place after shooting a 5-under 211 (71-70-70).
“Ty was second at Big 12s and third at regionals as a true freshman, and you can’t say enough about his performance,” Higgins said. “He made a 15-footer for birdie on 18 that actually tied it and forced Jaeger to make a birdie putt to beat us by one. I was pretty proud of him to put the pressure on that guy to have to make a putt to win it. That was awesome.”
Three other Aggies finished in the top 20, Geoff Shaw (215, -1) in 11th, Jordan Russell (218, +2) in 14th and Johannes Veerman (219, +3) in 17th. Redshirt freshman Greg Yates (224, +8) finished 35th overall.
“Geoff Shaw was just tremendous, especially the last two rounds,” Higgins said. “He played his heart out and gave us everything. Once again it was a team effort…everyone was in it all the way to the end. Everyone contributed and that’s what it’s going to take for us to bring home another championship.”
The 2009 National Champions will make their fifth consecutive and 28th all-time appearance at the NCAA finals, which are scheduled for May 29-June 3 in Pacific Palisades, California. Among all collegiate programs, only Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and USC have finished in the top 15 in each of the last four years. Teams will play three rounds of stroke play, with the top eight then advancing to match play to determine the national champion.