SOUTH BEND, Ind. - By firing a team-best 2-under par 278 in Saturday's final round, the 26th-ranked LSU men's golf team clawed its way back into the top five of the final standings to finish in fifth place at the NCAA Central Regional and earn a berth into the 2010 NCAA Division I Men's Golf Championships.
The Tigers snapped a 14-year drought by earning their first NCAA Championships appearance since 1997 as this year's championship will be held June 1-6 at The Honors Course in Chattanooga, Tenn.
After seeing Friday's second round suspended due to heavy thunderstorms, the No. 5-seeded Tigers made their way back to The Warren Golf Course on Saturday morning to finish the round with a 9-over par 289. LSU ended a difficult second round in a tie for seventh place with a 36-hole score of 9-over 569 and three shots outside of qualifying position for the national championship.
But the team bounced back in a big way with a 2-under 278 in the final round on Saturday for a fifth place finish and a three-round team score of 7-over par 847.
LSU is one of five teams to qualify for the NCAA Championships from the NCAA Central Regional with No. 1 seed Stanford leading wire-to-wire with a final score of 10-under 830. No. 3 seed Florida State took second at 6-under 834, while No. 2 seed Florida was third (838) and No. 4 seed Duke was fourth (839).
The Tigers are one of 30 teams nationwide to earn the right to compete at the NCAA Championships with the top-five teams from each of the six regional tournaments receiving an invitation.
"Our guys earned it. They have worked hard all year long to get to this point, and it's a great achievement for them to earn a spot in the NCAA Championships," said LSU head coach Chuck Winstead. "We have a very talented group of guys. They didn't play very well in the second round, but came back and played an outstanding final round to earn their spot. I'm proud of the toughness showed in the way they competed."
LSU held a two-stroke advantage over a trio of Big Ten Conference teams with only junior standout John Peterson still on the course playing the par-four 18th hole. Peterson only needed to make bogey on the last hole of the tournament to send the Tigers to the NCAA Championships.
Peterson put the ball on the green in three strokes and safely two-putted for his bogey as LSU wrapped up the tournament one stroke ahead of Michigan, Northwestern and Iowa for the fifth qualifying spot.
Peterson, who finished in a tie for third place on the leaderboard at the NCAA South Central Regional last season, returned to the course to finish his second round with a 4-over 74 before firing an even-par 70 in the final round to tie for 22nd place at 1-over 211 for the championship.
As he has all season long, junior First-Team All-SEC selection and All-America candidate Andrew Loupe led the way for the Tigers for the week as he earned his team-leading sixth Top 10 finish of the campaign. Loupe carded an even-par 70 in the second round and a 2-under 68 in the final round for a three-day score of 2-under 208 and a tie for sixth place in the final individual standings.
The Baton Rouge native is a strong candidate for All-America honors this season as he lowers his scoring average to 71.8 with his performance at the NCAA Central Regional this weekend.
While Loupe led the way with a 2-under 68, sophomore Austin Gutgsell was impressive as he recorded an outstanding round of 1-under 69 that included four-straight birdies on the difficult back nine at The Warren Golf Course. Gutgsell tied for 32nd place overall in his first regional appearance at 4-over par 214.
Fellow sophomore Sang Yi matched Gutgsell's effort with a 54-hole score of 4-over 214 to tie for 32nd as he added a 1-over 71 toward LSU's team total in the final round. Junior Clayton Rotz finished the week in a tie for 59th place at 14-over par 224, including a 6-over 76 in the final round.
NCAA CENTRAL REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS - FINAL ROUND RESULTS
TEAM SCORES (Par 840)
1. Stanford 277-279-274 - 830 -10; 2. Florida State 283-276-275 - 834 -6; 3. Florida 279-280-279 - 838 -2; 4. Duke 292-277-270 - 839 -1; 5. LSU 280-289-278 - 847 +7; T6. Northwestern 284-279-285 - 848 +8; T6. Michigan 285-281-282 - 848 +8; T6. Iowa 288-279-281 - 848 +8; 9. Indiana 285-286-279 - 850 +10; 10. Virginia Tech 284-288-283 - 855 +15; 11. NC State 289-283-287 - 859 +19; 12. Detroit Mercy 297-289-285 - 871 +31; 13. Murray State 297-295-287 - 879 +39; 14. St. Francis 319-304-287 - 910 +70
TOP 10 INDIVIDUALS (Par 210)
1. Drew Kittleson, Florida State, 69-67-68 - 204 -6; T2. Wesley Graham, Florida State, 67-68-70 - 205 -5; T2. Adam Long, Duke, 70-70-65 - 205 -5; 4. David Chung, Stanford, 67-70-69 - 206 -4; 5. Steve Ziegler, Stanford, 71-67-69 - 207 -3; T6. Andrew Loupe, LSU, 70-70-68 - 208 -2; T6. Matt Thompson, Michigan, 71-65-72 - 208 -2; T6. Marshall Bailey, Virginia Tech, 72-70-66 - 208 -2; T6. Brinson Paolini, Duke, 73-70-65 - 208 -2; T6. Sihwan Kim, Stanford, 69-69-70 - 208 -2