BATON ROUGE - While firing a career-low 7-under par 65 in Sunday's final round, senior Austin Gutgsell captured his second collegiate championship by four shots in leading the 18th-ranked LSU men's golf team to a successful defense of its team crown at the 34th LSU National Invitational in their regular-season finale held this weekend at the University Club.
After opening the weekend with back-to-back scores of 1-under par 71 on Saturday, Gutgsell smashed his best career round as an LSU Tiger with a tournament-low 7-under par 65 on Sunday en route to a winning 54-hole score of 9-under par 207 for a four-stroke victory on the weekend.
On a day that also witnessed sophomore Andrew Presley fire a 4-under par 68 and senior Sang Yi card an even-par 72, the Tigers matched their lowest team score of the 2011-12 season with a 9-under 279 to earn a two-shot victory over the Iowa Hawkeyes with a 54-hole score of 11-under 853.
Purdue followed well back in third place with a tournament score of 13-over 877, while Iowa State earned a fourth-place finish at 18-over 882 and Louisiana Tech posted a fifth-place finish at 23-over 887.
With a victory at the 34th LSU National Invitational, the Tigers defended their title from a season ago with their third tournament title in their last four spring events. They also captured back-to-back wins in March at the Louisiana Classics and Argent Financial Classic in events also held in the state of Louisiana.
Their performance also marked the second time this spring that the Tigers have swept team and individual titles in the same event as Presley won medalist honors at the Louisiana Classics on March 6.
"We saw some great things today from our team," said LSU head coach Chuck Winstead. "We're obviously very proud and happy for Austin, but he'd be the first to say you don't win team titles with only the play of one guy. With 853 shots in a tournament like this, you need everyone in the lineup to step it up and deliver. Winning three of the last four is pretty solid for our guys.
"We'll keep pushing forward and see what we can make of the postseason. The SEC Championships is an event that we expect to be our toughest challenge of the year as we open postseason play."
Gutgsell was nearly flawless on his final round as he carded one eagle and six birdies along with only one bogey while firing his lowest round as an LSU Tiger with a tournament-low 7-under 65 on Sunday. It was his best collegiate round by three shots as he set his previous low with a 4-under 68 in the second round at the 2010 David Toms Intercollegiate while earning his first collegiate championship.
His winning score of 9-under par 207 this weekend was just one stroke shy of matching his career best for a 54-hole event when he fired a 10-under 206 to win the 2010 David Toms Intercollegiate.
And Gutgsell was off to a flying start on Sunday as he made birdie on the par-four first and par-three third holes to quickly drop to 2-under for the day. He turned at 5-under for his round after making three straight birdies at the par-five sixth, par-four seventh and par-three eighth holes for a 31 on his front nine.
Gutgsell then opened the back nine with a birdie on the par-four 10th hole and an eagle on the par-five 11th hole to reach an astounding 8-under par through 11 holes. He gave a shot back with his lone bogey for the day at the par-three 13th hole before reeling off five-straight pars en route to a final score of 7-under 65.
Sunday's victory marked Gutgsell's second top-five finish in his last three starts as he claimed his first for the year with a tie for fourth place at the Argent Financial Classic on March 13.
Purdue's Jakob Ziegler finished four shots off the pace in second place overall with his 5-under par 211 in the event. Presley joined Minnesota's Erik Van Rooyen in a tie for third place as each fired a total score at 4-under par 212 on the weekend to finish five strokes behind Gutgsell on the final leaderboard.
Presley followed scores of 2-over 74 in the first round and 2-under 70 in the second round on Saturday by matching his seasonal best with a 4-under 68 in Sunday's final round to earn a fourth-straight top-10 finish this spring as he continues to make a strong case for All-SEC consideration.
Yi continued an impressive run of his own Sunday as he has firmly established himself as an All-America threat this season with five-straight top-10 finishes in his five starts on the spring season. Yi posted a final score of even-par 72 on Sunday to finish this year's LSU National Invitational in a tie for ninth place with a level-par score of 216 in 54 holes played at the University Club this weekend.
A native of Carrollton, Texas, Yi is one of the breakout stars in college golf this season while claiming his four top-five finishes and seven top-10 finishes in nine starts for the Tigers on the campaign.
Freshman Stewart Jolly added a 2-over 74 to LSU's team score in Sunday's final round, while sophomore Franco Castro wrapped up the event with a round of 5-over 77 as a part of the team's five-man lineup. Jolly tied for 21st place on the final leaderboard with a 54-hole score of 7-over par 221. Castro trailed by a single stroke in a tie for 26th place overall at 8-over par 224 for the weekend.
Freshman Myles Lewis led a group of four Tigers playing as individuals as he matched his career-low this afternoon with a 2-under 70 en route to a 54-hole score of 7-over 223 while tying Jolly for 21st place.
Fellow freshman Curtis Thompson posted a three-round score of 5-over 221 to tie for 17th place overall in this year's LSU National Invitational, while sophomore Smylie Kaufman tied for 51st place at 17-over par 233 and sophomore Landon Lyons finished in 58th place at 23-over 239 for the championship.
With the regular season now in the rearview mirror, the Tigers will prepare for the postseason as they will make their return to the Seaside Course at Sea Island Golf Club in St. Simons Island, Ga., for the 2012 Southeastern Conference Men's Golf Championships being held April 20-22. LSU looks to improve upon back-to-back fifth-place finishes at the SEC Championships earned in 2010 and 2011.
LSU NATIONAL INVITATIONAL - FINAL ROUND RESULTS
TEAM SCORES (Par 864)
1. LSU 285-289-279 - 853 -11; 2. Iowa 281-287-287 - 855 -9; 3. Purdue 302-283-292 - 877 +13; 4. Iowa State 298-293-291 - 882 +18; 5. Louisiana Tech 292-299-296 - 887 +23; 6. Louisiana-Lafayette 301-290-299 - 890 +26; 7. Minnesota 296-291-304 - 891 +27; 8. Chattanooga 305-299-290 - 894 +30; 9. UNC-Wilmington 305-295-301 - 901 +37; T10. Furman 306-302-299 - 907 +43; T10. Michigan 302-308-297 - 907 +43; 12. Boston College 314-316-312 - 942 +78.
TOP 10 INDIVIDUALS (Par 216)
1. Austin Gutgsell, LSU, 71-71-65 - 207 -9; 2. Jakob Ziegler, Purdue, 74-68-69 - 211 -5; T3. Andrew Presley, LSU, 74-70-68 - 212 -4; T3. Erik Van Rooyen, Minnesota, 69-69-74 - 212 -4; 5. Steven Ihm, Iowa, 67-74-72 - 213 -3; 6. Scott Fernandez, Iowa State, 74-70-70 - 214 -2; T7. Barrett Kelpin, Iowa, 71-71-73 - 215 -1; T7. Ian Vandersee, Iowa, 69-70-76 - 215 -1; T9. Sang Yi, LSU, 69-75-72 - 216 E; T9. Tyler Duncan, Purdue, 74-69-73 - 216 E; T9. Payne McLeod, UNC-Wilmington, 73-70-73 - 216 E.
1. Austin Gutgsell, 71-71-65 - 207 -9
T3. Andrew Presley, 74-70-68 - 212 -4
T9. Sang Yi, 69-75-72 - 216 E
T17. Curtis Thompson, 71-69-81 - 221 +5*
T21. Stewart Jolly, 76-73-74 - 223 +7
T21. Myles Lewis, 79-74-70 - 223 +7*
T26. Franco Castro, 71-76-77 - 224 +8
T51. Smylie Kaufman, 77-78-78 - 233 +17*
58. Landon Lyons, 83-78-78 - 239 +23*
* - Indicates player competing as an individual.