May 22, 2010
Tennessee's goal since September hasn't been a secret -- Make it to The Honors Course.
Saturday in Santee, Calif., the Vols realized that goal and earned themselves back-to-back trips to the NCAA Men's Golf Championships for the very first time under head coach Jim Kelson.
UT climbed to third at the San Diego Regional, shooting an 8-over-par score of 296 for the second straight round and finishing in a three-way tie with California and UNLV at 886. More importantly, that trio of teams was seven shots clear of sixth-place Central Florida (893) for the right to compete June 2-6 at The Honors Course in Ooltewah.
"We are really proud of our team for the way they persevered this week," said Kelson, who has led UT to the NCAA finals five times in the last eight seasons. "With the national championship being held at The Honors, that was a huge goal for us at the beginning of the year to qualify for that event.
"We're excited about making it and feel we have a good team. We think our players are rounding into form and we're looking forward to a good week in Chattanooga."
Top-seeded and top-ranked Oregon ran away with the region championship, closing with a 2-under-par round of 286 for a three-day total of 870. Augusta State was second at 880.
The leading five teams didn't change from rounds two to three, but that's not to say Tennessee followers didn't face some anxious moments during Saturday's competition at Carlton Oaks Golf Club.
"We didn't get off to a very good start," Kelson said. "But our guys battled really well and starting making some birdies there on the front nine and kind of steadied the ship."
Tennessee junior Robin Wingardh shot a 1-over 73 Saturday to finish all alone in 10th place at 3-over-par 219. Close behind him on the individual leaderboard was Vols sophomore Garrick Porteous, who led the UT final-round effort with a sparkling 71 for a three-day scorecard of 221 that tied him for 14th.
"Robin has made some really good changes and he's gotten more confidence," Kelson said. "I think he's definitely headed in the right direction. And Garrick, we're really proud of the way he played. His was a pretty clutch round for us and he did a super job."
Wingardh balanced two birdies with a pair of bogeys on the front nine, then suffered just a bogey at No. 12 for his team-leading fourth top-10 finish of the season. Porteous earned his second career top-20 thanks to consecutive birdies at the seventh, eighth and ninth holes.
Darren Renwick was even par for the day through 16 holes and headed for his own top-20 finish until he followed a bogey at No. 17 with a double bogey at the last. Still, the sophomore shot 75 and tied for 33rd place at 9-over-par 225.
David Holmes finished in that same group at 225 after Saturday's 77. The senior captain parred his first three holes and then his last five. In between, however, Holmes carded four birdies, three bogeys, a double and a triple for his worst round of golf since March 1.
Jay Vandeventer also shot 77 on Saturday. The freshman began his day with bogeys on three of his first four holes. He rebounded to 2 over par through 11 holes when he again bogeyed three out of four. One more birdie was offset by a final bogey at No. 18 and the Bristol native's NCAA tournament debut was a tie for 39th place at 10-over-par 226.
"I think everybody played pretty solidly," Kelson said. "We've still got some areas to work on and we know exactly what those areas are to work on to get ready for the finals."
The SEC sent 10 teams to regionals but only Florida and LSU are joining the Vols at this year's championship. Georgia came close but was eliminated by Baylor in a one-hole playoff at the College Station Regional. Tennessee also is the only Volunteer State representative playing on home soil after Middle Tennessee and East Tennessee State both finished sixth in their respective regions, and Chattanooga and Vanderbilt did not threaten.
In addition to Augusta State, California, Oregon and UNLV advancing from the San Diego Regional, the rest of the 30-team field consists of Arizona State, Baylor, Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Southern, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Kent State, North Florida, Oklahoma State, Oregon State, Penn State, San Diego, Southern California, Stanford, Texas, Texas A&M, TCU, Texas Tech, Virginia, UCLA, Washington.
UT is making its fifth NCAA finals appearance since 2003 and 14th in school history. The previous four under Kelson occurred in odd-numbered years. The last time the Vols played in back-to-back finals was their run of three consecutive from 1995-97, including a 23rd-place showing at the 1996 event held at The Honors Course. Tiger Woods was that year's individual champion.
|2.||Augusta State||303-286-291--880 (+16)|
|6.||Central Florida||295-301-297--893 (+29)|
|7.||New Mexico State||296-302-297--895 (+31)|
|t-8.||San Diego State||304-294-301--899 (+35)|
|t-8.||UC Irvine||303-297-299--899 (+35)|
|13.||Oral Roberts||304-302-317--923 (+59)|
|1.||*Nick Delio, Cal State Northridge||71-69-73--213 (-3)|
|2.||Daniel Miernicki, Oregon||72-69-73--214 (-2)|
|t-3.||Isaiah Telles, Oregon||75-73-67--215 (-1)|
|t-3.||Eddie Olson, UNLV||68-73-74--215 (-1)|
|5.||Three players tied at 216|
|*Competed as individual.|
|10.||Robin Wingardh||71-75-73--219 (+3)|
|t-14.||Garrick Porteous||77-73-71--221 (+5)|
|t-33.||Darren Renwick||77-73-75--225 (+9)|
|t-33.||David Holmes||72-76-77--225 (+9)|
|t-39.||Jay Vandeventer||74-75-77--226 (+10)|