May 21, 2011
By John Painter
UT Media Relations
ZIONSVILLE, Ind. - Tennessee pulled into the Wolf Creek Golf Club here Saturday and almost immediately started mowing down the competition.
Stanford? Only took a few holes.
Why, the Vols even chased down Iowa before the day was through and punched their ticket into the NCAA Men's Golf Championship, set to begin May 31 in Stillwater, Okla.
"We are thrilled," UT head coach Jim Kelson said. "This may have been the best we have played this year under the extreme circumstances we had here today. Under the gun, this was a great round."
OK, so it wasn't quite an easy afternoon at the local pitch-and-putt. But Tennessee burst from the gate on a treacherous golf course and made up an eight-stroke deficit with plenty to spare, rallying to an impressive fourth-place tie at the NCAA Central-Indiana Regional.
Tennessee carded a 3-under-par 281 Saturday to finish at 13-over 865, even with Iowa (865) and four strokes clear of Stanford (869). The Cardinal entered the day in fifth place, eight strokes ahead of Tennessee, but shot a final-round 293 for its worse score of the tournament.
The Vols entered Saturday's final round mired in seventh place and needing to play their best golf of the weekend. They did that and more, mimicking a Peyton Manning and Indianapolis Colts' two-minute drill - only at the start of the day instead of the end.
"I think they knew this was a hard-enough golf course that we could make up eight shots," said Kelson, who received a good-luck call before the tournament began from Manning, a Wolf Run member and proud Vols alumnus. "Typically, it's pretty tough to make up eight shots on teams as good as Stanford or Iowa. But on a course this hard with just a little bit of wind, if you go out and play pretty well, you can make that up.
"We needed a hot start and we got after it."
Birdie-fest Starts Early
Beginning play on the 10th tee, Tennessee poured in nine birdies over the first three holes before Charlotte, Stanford and Iowa had barely begun their rounds.
Danny Keddie and Garrick Porteous were the catalysts, going a combined 5 under par during that stretch en route to rounds of 66 and 70, respectively. But Jay Vandeventer and Darren Renwick also contributed four early birdies to help the cause and keep the momentum rolling.
"We pulled into a different parking spot today - changed it up a bit - and then got off to a great start," Renwick said with a laugh. "It was a great day."
Tennessee moves on to the NCAA finals for a third straight season, matching the best run in program history. Only the 1980-82 and 1995-97 Vols advanced to the championship round three consecutive years.
"That's a nice accomplishment and what we want to do," said Kelson, who is taking his sixth UT squad to the finals in the last nine years. "You always want to be playing the last week of May. We're just thrilled for them because that was really good playing out there today."
Keddie Out in 31
Keddie's game was especially sharp. The freshman posted a sizzling 31 for his first nine holes and played level-par the rest of the way to climb into a tie for seventh place at 3-under-par 210.
"I just got off to a really hot start," he said. "I fired at a couple of pins and my putting felt really good. I had a bogey on the 14th hole but then I came back with a birdie on 15, where I had struggled all week not hitting the fairway. I hit the fairway this time and made birdie, so that was a real bonus. Then I birdied 17 and 18, and just tried to carry that forward to the next nine."
Keddie finished with six birdies on his first nine and one on the back to more than offset a pair of bogeys for the day.
The freshman's 66 matched his season-low from the Augusta State Invitational, which is when Tennessee began this current run of impressive tournament play. UT needed a second-place finish there and a third at the SEC Championships just to earn a chance for an at-large bid into the NCAA postseason.
"We all started to play up to how we know we can play," said Keddie, who has finishes of sixth, sixth and seventh over his last three starts. "We all know we're good players and we've just started to really show it. That's the best thing about it."
Porteous continues to perform best when the NCAA flags are flying. The junior's tie for fourth here this week is his third career top-30 showing at an NCAA tournament and best to date. Porteous finished 30th at the NCAA regional his freshman season, then was 14th a year ago in the San Diego Regional.
"I think it's just the excitement of getting through to the finals, playing your hardest and competing the best you can," he said. "It's exciting and encouraging for what we can expect in Oklahoma."
Porteous carded five birdies to help offset a pair of bogeys and a tough-luck double at No. 18. Had the Vols not advanced to Stillwater, Porteous would have qualified as the low individual on the strength of his 4-under-par 209.
"I'd rather have the crew with me than go by myself," he confessed. "I thought we just had to go out and shoot low, and obviously we got off to a hot start. It was awesome. Danny was 3 under after three and I was 2 under after three - we closed the gap after four holes."
Wingardh Plays Another Day
Wingardh seemed to narrow the gap on his swing struggles, shooting his best round of the tournament to climb 17 places to a tie for 34th at 9-over 222. It's his worst finish of the year and highest score, but the senior wasn't complaining about the chance to continue his UT career for one more tournament.
"I definitely wanted to play in the finals," he said. "It's my last year and it would have been disappointing to end at regionals, so I'm really excited. It's going to be fun to go to Oklahoma. It's going to be a great course and it'll be tough, but we have a chance to get this done."
After a pair of early bogeys, Wingardh found his stride with three birdies over a stretch of four holes beginning at No. 16. He finished with seven pars and one bogey the rest of the way for his 71.
"It didn't feel like I played that well today, but my misses were better and didn't really cost me shots when I missed," Wingardh said. "That was the key for me today; I kept it in play a little better."
Renwick kept it in play pretty much all week - except for the dreaded No. 8, his nemesis.
"That hole cost me seven shots," said Renwick, who scored a nine Friday and double-bogey six Saturday at the par-4 dogleg left. "I did exactly the same thing today, hit it in the long grass and had to walk all the way back to the tee."
Three birdies and four bogeys over the other 17 holes left the junior in a tie for 49th place at 14-over 227. Would those seven shots have changed his opinion of Wolf Run?
"I enjoyed the course even though - I don't want to say it's unfair, but it's ever so close. Just being off the green and making doubles and triples - you see that happen all the time.
"But it was a great day. It's the best feeling, having gone from maybe not doing anything the next couple of weeks to preparing for nationals and getting a shot at the national championship."
`Just Keep It Going'
Vandeventer found an early rhythm and, even though he couldn't sustain it, sounded satisfied that he is close to a really special round.
"It was a battle; this whole week was pretty much a battle. I started off well today, better than I had the first two days. Then it was a grind from there on in. It requires patience and precise shots, and just a couple of errant shots can do it for you. I tried to be a little more conservative today and get it in play. There were just three or four swings I want back; three or four shots."
After birdies at Nos. 10 and 12, Vandeventer mustered just one additional birdie on a nice bending putt at the par-4 fifth hole. He finished in a tie for 45th place at 12-over 225.
"I'm looking for to it," Vandeventer said of Stillwater. "I've played the Ping Invitational out there and it's a tough track, but it's definitely one we can handle. We've just got to get in the right mindset, go back and practice the shots we might get out there, and just keep it going.
"We're going to take this as a win, pretty much; we made it through. We're going cherish that but then get back to work as soon as we get home."
Michigan (841) rallied to claim the team crown thanks to a closing round of 9-under-par 275. Illinois (843) and Alabama (847) join the Vols and Hawkeyes in advancing to the NCAA finals. Michigan's Lion Kim and Illinois' Luke Guthrie tied for medalist honors at 8-under-par 205 after both fired matching 65s Saturday.
In addition to UT and Alabama, other SEC teams advancing to Stillwater are Arkansas, Florida, Georgia and LSU.
|T-8.||Wake Forest||301-291-290--882 (+30)|
|T-8.||Florida State||291-295-296--882 (+30)|
|12.||Wichita State||301-303-302--906 (+54)|
|13.||Missouri-Kansas City||312-300-295--907 (+55)|
|14.||Sacred Heart||319-313-318--950 (+98)|
|T-1.||Lion Kim, Michigan||71-69-65--205 (-8)|
|T-1.||Luke Guthrie, Illinois||69-71-65--205 (-8)|
|3.||Bud Cauley, Alabama||68-71-68--207 (-6)|
|T-4.||Garrick Porteous, TENNESSEE||71-68-70--209 (-4)|
|T-4.||Hunter Hamrick, Alabama||68-72-69--209 (-4)|
|T-4.||Joey Garber, Michigan||71-68-70--209 (-4)|
|T-4.||Garrick Porteous||71-68-70--209 (-4)|
|T-7.||Danny Keddie||69-75-66--210 (-3)|
|T-34.||Robin Wingardh||73-78-71--222 (+9)|
|T-45.||Jay Vandeventer||74-76-75--225 (+12)|
|T-49.||Darren Renwick||74-79-74--227 (+14)|