Senior Brandon Pierce closed out his collegiate career with a team-low 74 (+2).
Tim Cowie

Men's Golf Takes Ninth at NCAA Championship

Will Stafford (@WillStaffordLSU)
Will Stafford (@WillStaffordLSU)
Associate SID

SUGAR GROVE, Ill. – After 72 holes of stroke-play qualifying at the 2017 NCAA Division I Men's Golf Championships, the No. 6-seeded LSU Tigers finished one spot and two shots shy of advancing to match play for the fourth-straight season while earning a ninth-place team finish Monday at Rich Harvest Farms Golf Club.

A final score of 9-over par 1,161 over the course of four rounds left LSU just two shots behind Baylor and UNLV in a tie for seventh place overall at 7-over par for the last two spots in the “Match Play Eight.”

The Tigers moved up a spot over the course of their final round after teeing off in 10th place at 6-under par through 54 holes. They matched the third-lowest team score of the afternoon with a 15-over par 303 on a day in which the 15 remaining teams in the NCAA field gave away nearly 19 shots to the course on average in the final round of stroke play.

The Tigers qualified for the match-play tournament for the national championship in each of the last three seasons, highlighted by winning the program's fifth NCAA title all-time in 2015. LSU also advanced to the NCAA semifinals in their debut appearance in 2014 before bowing out in the quarterfinals in their title defense a year ago.

Despite coming up short of match play at Rich Harvest Farms this weekend, the Tigers earned a fourth-straight top-10 finish at the NCAA Championships for the third time in team history. They recorded a similar streak twice before from 1939-43 and again from 1952-56.

LSU capped a season in which it also won a school single-season record six tournament titles as the No. 3-ranked team nationally in the final Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index released after Monday's round.

Vanderbilt grabbed the No. 1 seed in match play after finishing 12 shots clear of the field at 13-under par in four rounds of stroke play. Oklahoma was the only other team in the field to break par for 72 holes at 1-under par to claim the No. 2 seed. Rounding out the seeds for match play in order of finish were No. 3 seed Illinois (2-over), No. 4 seed Oklahoma State (3-over), No. 5 seed Oregon (6-over), No. 6 seed Southern California (6-over), No. 7 seed Baylor (7-over) and No. 8 seed UNLV (7-over).

“I'm very proud of these guys. It was a tough ending to a very good year for our team,” said LSU head coach Chuck Winstead of LSU's performance at the NCAA Championships. “We didn't have our best this week, but these guys exhibited the type of competitive toughness that this program has been built on. I'm very proud of our program and where it stacks up versus any of our competition.”

Senior Brandon Pierce closed out his collegiate career with the team's low score of the day as he posted a 2-over 74 to tie for 23rd place at 1-over par 289 as the top Tiger on the final leaderboard. Senior Eric Ricard had a 4-over 76 in his last round for LSU as he tied for 62nd place with a final score of 10-over par 298 in stroke play.

The two remaining members of LSU's SEC and NCAA championship team in 2015, Pierce ended his career with 12 Top 10s and a 72.39 scoring average while Ricard added 11 Top 10s and a 73.01 scoring average.

Sophomore Sam Burns, a finalist for the 2017 Jack Nicklaus NCAA Division I National Player of the Year Award, saw his run of 14-straight top-10 finishes this season snapped when he tied for 32nd place on the final NCAA Championship leaderboard with a 72-hole score of 3-over par 291, including a 4-over 76 in the final round. Burns officially ended the 2016-17 season with LSU's single-season scoring record with an average of 73.04 strokes per round in his 43 rounds played on the year.

Fellow sophomore Luis Gagne, a top-20 player nationally in his own right, tied for 47th place overall after finishing the championship with a 5-over 77 in the final round for a 72-hole score of 7-over par 295.

“What can you say about all that Brandon and Eric have been a part of in their time with us? It's tremendous,” Winstead said. “Sam's year? As good as any in our program's history. Just outstanding. Luis Gagne could be the most improved player in the nation over the past year. Week in, week out, he's played outstanding golf and has been as big a part of our team's success this year as anyone.”

Monday's final round also saw freshman Philip Barbaree cap his first spring season with the Tigers with a tie for 43rd place while closing out the championship with a four-day score of 6-over par 294. Barbaree led LSU by firing a career-low 4-under 68 in Saturday's second round before breaking par for the second-straight day with a 1-under 71 in Sunday's third round.

“Philip has been tremendous,” Winstead said of the LSU freshman. “I couldn't be more proud of how he has grown and how he competes. He was as much of a contributor this spring as anyone. He led the way for our team through two days here at the NCAA Championships. His future could not be brighter.”

Ole Miss' Braden Thornberry was crowned the NCAA individual champion with a four-shot victory over Arkansas' Mason Overstreet as he ended stroke play with a round of 1-under 71 on Monday and 11-under 277 for 72 holes. Overstreet finished runner-up at 7-under 281, while Vanderbilt teammates Matthias Schwab and Theo Humphrey and Texas' Scottie Scheffler tied for third place at 6-under 282.

NCAA DIVISION I MEN'S GOLF CHAMPIONSHIPS – FINAL STROKE PLAY RESULTS

TEAM SCORES (Par 1,152)
1. Vanderbilt 278-288-280-293 – 1139 -13; 2. Oklahoma 284-279-284-304 – 1151 -1; 3. Illinois 282-283-285-304 – 1154 +2; 4. Oklahoma State 282-287-283-303 – 1155 +3; T5. Southern California 284-283-280-311 – 1158 +6; T5. Oregon 294-282-289-293 – 1158 +6; T7. Baylor 288-280-287-304 – 1159 +7; T7. UNLV 283-279-285-312 – 1159 +7; 9. LSU 291-277-290-303 – 1161 +9; 10. Virginia 288-283-284-307 – 1162 +10; 11. Auburn 282-284-290-308 – 1164 +12; 12. Texas 293-283-283-307 – 1166 +14; 13. Pepperdine 289-293-287-311 – 1180 +28; T14. Florida State 289-285-286-321 – 1181 +29; T14. Central Florida 294-284-293-310 – 1181 +29.

TOP 10 INDIVIDUALS (Par 288)
1. Braden Thornberry, Ole Miss, 66-71-69-71 – 277 -11; 2. Mason Overstreet, Arkansas, 70-68-72-71 – 281 -7; T3. Scottie Scheffler, Texas, 68-68-68-78 – 282 -6; T3. Theo Humphrey, Vanderbilt, 71-72-69-70 – 282 -6; T3. Matthias Schwab, Vanderbilt, 67-70-70-75 – 282 -6; T6. Rico Hoey, Southern California, 74-68-66-76 – 284 -4; T6. Dylan Meyer, Illinois, 71-67-69-77 – 284 -4; T8. Viktor Hovland, Oklahoma State, 68-74-68-75 – 285 -3; T8. John Augenstein, Vanderbilt, 74-70-69-72 – 285 -3; T8. John Oda, UNLV, 69-69-72-75 – 285 -3.

LSU SCORES
T23. Brandon Pierce, 73-68-74-74 – 289 +1
T32. Sam Burns, 71-69-75-76 – 291 +3
T43. Philip Barbaree, 74-68-71-81 – 294 +6
T47. Luis Gagne, 73-75-70-77 – 295 +7
T62. Eric Ricard, 75-72-75-76 – 298 +10

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