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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (May 17, 2023) – The ETSU men’s golf team is heading to the NCAA Championship for a third straight year!
In a final round that featured many twists and turns, as well as an hour and a half lightning delay and a playoff, the Buccaneers survived and advanced to the NCAA Championship by securing the fifth and final spot of the Las Vegas Regional on Wednesday evening from Bear’s Best Las Vegas.
Eighteen holes wasn’t enough for the 33rd-ranked Buccaneers as they sat tied for fifth at 43-under-par 821 with No. 28 Northwestern when the round concluded. After being forced to wait over an hour-and-a-half for the rest of the field to finish, ETSU and Northwestern went to the playoff.
All five members went back on the course to determine the final spot for the championship, and when the dust settled, ETSU secured a three-shot win over the perennial Big 10 power. The Bucs finished at 1-under-par and Northwestern posted a 2-over-par.
The playoff featured play on holes No. 11 and No. 15-18.
Archie Davies (Carlisle, England) was sent to the par-4, 340-yard No. 11 and he birdied it, while Northwestern chalked up a bogey. Jack Tickle (Bristol, Tenn.) played the par-4, 416-yard No. 16 and he came away with a par, while the Wildcats carded another bogey. From there, ETSU had its three-shot lead, and Mats Ege (Kristiansand, Norway), Algot Kleen (Fiskebackskil, Sweden) and Matty Dodd-Berry (Wirral, England) all parred their holes to secure the win for the Blue & Gold. Ege played No. 15, Kleen played No. 17 and Dodd-Berry played No. 18.
“What a day,” said head coach Jake Amos, who is sending the Bucs back to Scottsdale for a third straight year. “The guys were three (shots) back when the lightning delay happened. We did a really nice job recouping and understanding what we needed to do. They hit some unbelievable shots down the stretch under intense pressure. It was so close. They were obviously disappointed not to make it in regular play, but just to put themselves in that situation to make it, was our goal coming down the stretch.
“It would have been easy to get down after the way we finished, but the boys are tough – they have shown that all spring. They embraced the playoff with a great attitude. I’m delighted to go back (to the NCAA Championship) again and we looking for some redemption.”
It was quite a day, as ETSU started the morning one shot behind Northwestern for the coveted fifth spot on the leaderboard. When the Bucs made the turn, they still sat in sixth-place and one-shot off the fifth spot at 37-under, trailing San Francisco.
For the second straight day, the teams were forced to come off the course due to a lightning delay. With ETSU sitting at holes No. 9 thru 11, the Blue & Gold were three shots off fifth place at 36-under. After having some time to refocus and recharge, the Bucs made their move and climbed up the leaderboard.
ETSU played its final seven holes at six-under par to get into contention. With four holes left in regulation, the Bucs sat in fourth place and had a one-shot lead over San Francisco and a two-stroke advantage of Northwestern. San Francisco secured its spot in regulation by playing the final hole – the par-4, 453-yard No. 9 at three-under, while ETSU played it at even-par.
The Bucs had a chance to secure the final spot in regulation as ETSU led Northwestern by one shot with Kleen walking to the tee box. However, after hitting his tee shot in the fairway, the Buccaneer leader missed the green and walked away with a bogey – moving the Bucs into the tie with the Wildcats at 43-under.
Like they’ve done all season – including at the Southern Conference Championship – the Blue & Gold stepped up in the pressured situation and delivered with clutch shots and putts en route to keeping their season alive.
It was a historic week for the Bucs as they set a program record with the 43-under-par 821 (272-275-274). The 54-hole score broke the previous mark set by this same group when ETSU defended its crown at the Hootie at Bulls Bay back in March with a score of 40-under-par 824. In addition, the previous 54-hole team regional record was 36-under-par 828, set at the 2001 NCAA East Regional.
Arizona State, the No. 4 ranked team in the country, won the Las Vegas Regional with a record score of 59-under-par 804, while No. 8 Stanford – who began the final round with a four-shot lead – finished runner-up at 57-under-par 807. No. 16 Virginia (-49) and No. 45 San Francisco (-45) rounded out the other top spots. No. 28 Northwestern, No. 21 Oklahoma State (-35) and No. 40 Cincinnati (-29) missed out on advancing to the NCAA Championships.
As a team, ETSU registered three eagles, 72 birdies and 158 pars during the week, while posting the second-lowest average on the par-3s at 3.07.
This marked the Bucs’ 25th NCAA Regional and ETSU is now advancing to its 20th NCAA Championship.
Individually, Kleen and Ege paced the Blue & Gold, but Tickle – a sophomore who was used sparingly this season – was inserted into the lineup late Sunday night and provided ETSU with countable scores for all three rounds.
Kleen finished tied for ninth at 13-under-par 203, marking the Bucs’ second-lowest 54-hole total at an NCAA Regional. Rhys Davies shot 14-under-par 199 at the 2005 NCAA East Regional. The 13-under 203 also matched Kleen’s lowest 54-hole collegiate total.
Ege provided the spark on Wednesday as he shot a 7-under 65 to climb 24 spots up the leaderboard to finish tied for 14th at 11-under-par 205. The reigning SoCon Player of the Year exploded out of the gates with three straight birdies and played the first nine holes at three-under. Following the turn, Ege went birdie-birdie on holes No. 1 and No. 2, while his back-to-back birdies on No. 6 and No. 7 helped fuel that late charge to move ETSU into contention on the team leaderboard. Ege tallied eight of his team-leading 17 birdies for the tournament on Tuesday.
Playing in their first-ever NCAA Regional, both Dodd-Berry and Tickle gave the Bucs countable scores all three days. Dodd-Berry, the SoCon Freshman of the Year, finished tied for 25th at 8-under-par 208, while Tickle placed tied for 30th at 7-under-par 209. The Buccaneer duo shot below par all three rounds for the Blue & Gold. Tickle recorded his second-best collegiate finish this week in Las Vegas.
Virginia’s Ben James and San Francisco’s Matthew Anderson earned co-medalist honors at 20-under-par 196, while Oklahoma State’s Jonas Baumgartner defeated Northwestern’s Daniel Svard on the fourth playoff hole to advance to the NCAA Championship as an individual.
The 2023 NCAA Championship will be held May 26-31 at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz.
For more information on Buccaneer men’s golf, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men’s golf page.