Troy Falls Agonizingly Just Short Of NCAA Men's Golf Title

May 31, 2008

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On a bittersweet day in the Midwest , the USC men's golf team accomplished something it hadn't done in more than 30 years. That's the sweet. The bitter aftertaste comes from being tantalizing close to accomplishing something the program had never done at all.

USC finished third at the 2008 NCAA Men's Golf Championships on Saturday (May 31) after the final round at the Birck Boilermaker Golf Complex's Kampen Course in West Lafayette, Ind.

Third place tied Troy's best NCAA finish ever and was something USC hadn't done since 1975. It was USC's seventh third place in program history. It finished two strokes out of first, its closest finish to first in program history. And it finished three strokes short of winning its first NCAA title in program history, three shots of almost 1200 that counted over four days.

The Trojans finished at 44-over 1,196 (297-294-300-305), two strokes behind first-place UCLA (1,194-297-293-298-306) and one back of Stanford (1,195-309-288-296-302).

The Cardinal, in fact, was in the clubhouse at 43-over while UCLA and USC came down the stretch, fighting each other stroke for stroke, seemingly well ahead of their Pac-10 rival. But as the bogeys mounted on the indisputably brutal back 9, Stanford edged closer and closer to the lead, eventually sneaking past USC for second.

'It's super disappointing,' USC second-year Head Coach Chris Zambri said. 'We were right there. It looked like we were pretty far back at one time but got back in it. We just needed to play better.

'We didn't hit the great shots when it really mattered, but I think we can learn from it. We'll try to get them next year. It was a nice regular season, but the postseason is what matters most and we didn't get it done. So I wouldn't define it as a great year.'

The NCAA men's golf championships is not foreign to close finishes. Oklahoma State won twice in the past 15 years in a playoff after being tied in regulation. Eight other NCAA titles were decided by one stroke.

Previously, USC's closest finish was a six-shot deficit when it took fourth in 1963. Its next closest finish to first in terms of strokes was eight in 1956 when Troy took seventh. None of its previous third-places saw USC near the lead during the final round.

How tough was the course? UCLA's winning total was the highest for a winner since Houston won with a 1,197 in 1977.

Said sophomore Jamie Lovemark, the 2007 NCAA individual champion: 'The course was brutal, man. Worse than the U.S. Open.'

USC's proximity to first was a testament to its mettle. A winner of three of their past four tournaments and four of the past six, the Trojans turned to their experience to erase a 10-stroke deficit near the turn. In fact, Troy edged ahead briefly midway through the back 9, but the seesaw battle between the Trojans and Bruins soon returned to UCLA's favor.

UCLA clung to alternating one, two and three-shot leads during the final few holes. The UCLA lead was one with two players from each team remaining on the course: freshman Tim Sluiter and sophomore Rory Hie for USC and Kevin Chappell and Eric Flores for UCLA.

Then Chappell holed a chip shot on the 17th hole to save bogey while Sluiter had to settle for double bogey. Meanwhile on 18, both Hie and Flores carded bogeys. This left USC one shot behind Stanford, two behind UCLA. Sluiter had about a 20-foot birdie putt on 18 to put pressure on UCLA and tie Stanford, but it stopped virtually a hair short of the hole. He and Chappell both ended with pars on the hole.

Sluiter ultimately tied for ninth at 9-over 297 (70-73-73-81), only USC's fourth top 10 individual NCAA finish since 1995. The Netherlands native was Troy's most consistent golfer throughout the 72-hole event, but struggled on the back 9 today. His double on 17 - a hole he was par on during the first three rounds - was symbolic of USC's tough last few holes.

Hie finished tied for 13th at 10-over 298 (74-72-77-75). Hie was 2-over going out but got back to par after birdies on 10 and 11. He bogeyed 12, however, before knocking in pars on his next four holes. But he closed with bogeys on 17 and 18.

Freshman Matthew Giles, coming off strong second and third rounds, finished tied for 33rd at 17-over 305 (78-74-72-81). His final round opened with a respectable 2-over front 9 with birdies on the 4th and 7th holes. But he struggled on the back 9, closing at 7-over.

Junior Tom Glissmeyer, who entered the NCAA Championships with three straight top 6 finishes, turned in his top round of the event on Saturday with a 2-over 74 that tied him for 43rd at 19-over 307 (75-80-78-74). Glissmeyer, who began and finished first for the Trojans on Saturday, opened with a strong 2-under front 9, with birdies on the 2nd, 4th and 6th hole against only a bogey on 3. But he slipped back with five bogeys against one birdie on the way home.

'It's really disappointing,' Glissmeyer said. 'This is how we measure the year and we didn't accomplish what we set out to do. I'm sure over the course of four rounds, everyone on every team can find 4 or 5 shots they'd like back. Unless you really win convincingly, you can't really say what if. It takes some luck to win. You need a good bounce here or there.'

Sophomore Jamie Lovemark tied Glissmeyer for 43rd 307 (79-75-78-75). The 2007 NCAA Player of the Year was 2-over on the front 9 and 1-over on the back 9.

'We're upset,' Lovemark said. 'We played well all year and this was not a good tournament for us. Tim played well but other than that there wasn't one guy who played great. Everyone feels like we could've shot a few shots better, but there's nothing much you can do about it.'

Added Glissmeyer: 'We did a lot of really good things this year and grew a lot. We're going to learn from this and we'll be a more seasoned team next year. And now we have unfinished business.'

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