San Diego State Advances to NCAA Men's Golf Finals

 

Courtesy of San Diego State Athletics

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – For the second year in a row and the fourth time in the last six seasons, the San Diego State men's golf team has clinched a berth in the NCAA Championships after defeating Texas A&M in dramatic fashion on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff Wednesday in the NCAA Albuquerque Regional at the par-72, 7,555-yard UNM South Championship Course.

Gunn Yang (Pyeongchang, South Korea) holed out for a double-eagle with a 7-iron from 218 yards away, while Ryann Ree (Redondo Beach, Calif.) made an eagle of his own as the Aztecs topped the Aggies by three strokes (-5 to -2) on the par-5, 544-yard No. 1 for the right to compete in the national championships, scheduled for May 27-June 1 at Eugene Country Club in Eugene, Ore.

With its result, SDSU locked up a bid to the NCAA finals for the 29th time in program history and the eighth occasion (1999, 2003, 2005, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016) since regional play was adopted in 1989. From the Albuquerque Regional, the Aztecs will joined in the Pacific Northwest by champion Arizona State, runner-up TCU, USC and South Florida, as the top five finishing squads punched their ticket to the national meet.

San Diego State finished regulation tied with Texas A&M in the fifth spot at 40-over 904 after shooting an 11-over 299 during the final round, while the Aggies carded a 301. The Aztecs held a slim one-stroke advantage over Texas A&M on the 18th green after converting two pars to go with two birdies by Yang and Nahum Mendoza III (San Diego, Calif.). Meanwhile, the Aggies counted three pars on the final green before Cameron Champ sank a birdie putt to force the playoff.

However, Texas A&M's lineup was only able to produce two birdies against two pars in sudden death, falling short against SDSU's heroics as Yang's decisive shot hit the green 12 feet short of the flagstick and rolled in. Not to be outdone, Ree also used a 7-iron from a distance of 205 yards before completing his eagle with a six-foot putt.

Ree was the Aztecs' top individual finisher, landing alone in the ninth spot with a combined 6-over 222 after firing a final-round 74. Despite sinking two birdies on the front nine, the SDSU senior found himself 3-over after the turn after suffering five bogeys over a seven-hole stretch. However, the two-time all-Mountain West performer filled out an unblemished scorecard the rest of the way, logging eight pars and a birdie at the par-3 11th en route to his ninth top-10 placement of the year.

Yang, the 2014 U.S. Amateur champion, completed regulation one shot in back of Ree on the individual leaderboard, finishing a solo 10th at 7-over 223 on the heels of a 75. The Aztec sophomore weathered a rash of five bogeys before closing strong with three pars as well as a pair of birdies on the 15th and 18th greens.

Mendoza, meanwhile, climbed seven places into a tie for 34th at 14-over 230 after posting his lowest score of the week with a 74. The Francis Parker High alumnus and reigning Mountain West Player of the Year was cruising on the back nine, reeling off five straight pars to go with a birdie at No. 15. However, the SDSU junior had his momentum short-circuited with two bogeys on the 16th and 17th greens before delivering the aforementioned huge birdie on No. 18.

PJ Samiere (Kailua, Hawaii) also wound up in the 34th spot with Mendoza after recording a final-round 76. The Aztec sophomore netted just one birdie on the par-3 11th, which ranked as the sixth-toughest hole on Wednesday, but closed with three straight pars after notching bogeys on the 13th and 15th greens.

Samiere also made par on the playoff hole, along with senior Riccardo Michelini (Carpi, Italy), who tied for 53rd in regulation at 22-over 238. Michelini carded a 78 on Wednesday, highlighted by birdies at No. 11 and No. 18, to climb four places in the standings.

Arizona State's Jon Rahm captured medalist honors with a 4-under 212, topping runner-up Sean Crocker of USC (+1) by five strokes, while the TCU duo of Paul Barjon and Ryan Books tied for third at 3-over. Barjon (70) was one of just six players in the 75-golfer field to shoot in red figures on Wednesday as the average individual score remained at 76.83 thanks to intermittent rain.

San Diego State will be among the 30 teams and 156 total individuals that will compete for the NCAA title. The field will finish 72 holes of stroke play over a four-day period to determine the individual national champion. Following 54 holes of competition, the top 15 teams along with the top nine individuals not on one of those advancing teams will qualify for one additional day of stroke play to determine the top eight teams for match play.