Feature: USC's Lovemark Takes Title

June 6, 2007

By Peter Simones
Daily Trojan

June 6, 2007

Los Angeles, CA (CSTV U-WIRE) -- After winning an NCAA individual title, there is a laundry list of emotions that a golfer might be expected to feel; jubilation, pride, honor, shock and euphoria are a few that come to mind. But when USC freshman Jamie Lovemark realized that he had just secured collegiate golf's biggest prize, the emotion that first hit him was a snap-hook away from normal.

Lovemark felt guilty.

The No. 5 USC men's golf team began play May 30, at the Golden Horseshoe Golf Course in Williamsburg, Va., with its sight set on bringing home the program's first ever NCAA team title.

Instead, as NCAA Player of the Year Lovemark made his charge on Saturday, his teammates found themselves behind the ropes cheering for him rather than making a unified charge with him.

A three day, 14-over 854 left the Trojans tied for 18th with one round to play. Only the top 15 teams move on to that final round, however, which left USC with a sour ending to an otherwise impressive spring season.

'Jamie almost felt guilty in the sense that he'd had so much success and the team didn't have a chance themselves to compete for that national title as well,' USC Director of Golf Kurt Schuette said.

As the third round neared its close on Friday, it wasn't clear if any USC golfers would be continuing on at all. Lovemark began the day in 58th place after his opening rounds of 72 and 71 left him at 3-over.

Ranked No. 1 in the country heading into the tournament, Lovemark found his form in the third round, birdieing six holes in a row at one point en route to a 6-under 64.

But even with that flourish, Lovemark needed a birdie on the last hole to qualify individually for the final round -- a fact unknown to the freshman at the time.

That birdie left him tied with North Carolina's Martin Ureta at 3-under, earning them the final two individual slots for the fourth round.

Lovemark got off to a good start Saturday, going 3-under through nine, but still found himself trailing Clemson's Kyle Stanley by four at the turn.

'I was trying to be as aggressive as I could and make as many birdies as I could,' Lovemark said in a statement. 'I can't hope for them to collapse. I made a few down the stretch, enough to let me win.'

Playing ahead of Stanley, Lovemark turned the heat up on the Tiger by carding three consecutive birdies on the 15th, 16th and 17th holes -- none of which were achieved in the traditional manner.

'There were a few shots out there that were kind of crazy,' Lovemark said in the statement. 'The 15th was one of them. I punched out of the rough and made it pretty close.'

His shot then hit another competitor's ball, helping him hit even closer to the hole.

'He converted the putt and made birdie where it looked like he might have had trouble,' Schuette said. 'Jamie has a knack for turning nothing into something.'

Lovemark parred 18 and his second consecutive 64 left him at 9-under for the tournament. Stanley wilted under the pressure and after it was clear that Stanford's Rob Grube would not eagle the final hole, Lovemark became USC's third NCAA champion and just the eighth freshman to win the individual title.

By doing so, Lovemark joins company the likes of Ben Crenshaw, Curtis Strange and Phil Mickelson -- all three won the NCAA title in their first year at college.

'It's awesome. There are a lot of great names on the list. Hopefully next year our team can win it and they can share the experience I've had today,' Lovemark said in the statement. 'It's awesome to win, but I'm sure it's much better to win as a team.'

Few players have achieved the same success at such a young age, but Schuette said Lovemark is 'not the kind of kid that's going to get overwhelmed by the success or attention.'

'He's not intimidated by tall fetes or great players, and he's proven that in making two cuts on tour. For a young guy, he's really got a good head on his shoulders,' he said.

Next year, Lovemark, who earned All-America honors, will have a chance to become USC's second back-to-back NCAA champion. Scott Simpson achieved the feat in 1976 and 1977. But after the victory, Lovemark's mind was far from any thoughts on individual accomplishments.

'When (Jamie) walked off the course, he said, 'Coach, don't worry, we're going to come back and win it next year,'' Schuette said.

The back-to-back individual title has been achieved before at USC. A team title has not.

Said Schuette: 'Jamie is a true Trojan.'

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