COLUMBIA, Mo. – Sparked by a furious finish to Sunday’s final round at the NCAA Columbia Regional, the 14th-ranked and No. 3-seeded LSU Tigers earned a berth into the NCAA Championships for the fourth time in five seasons by tying for fourth place in the final team standings in the regional tournament held this weekend at The Club at Old Hawthorne.
The five Tigers in LSU’s lineup combined to shoot 18-under par on the back nine while carding 15 birdies, one eagle and just one bogey down the stretch to propel themselves into the Top 5 in the standings.
They fired their second-lowest team score of the 2013-14 season with a 14-under par 274 to finish the event in a tie for fourth place with No. 9-seeded Iowa State with matching 54-hole scores of 15-under par 849.
Juniors Ben Taylor and Curtis Thompson led the way for the Tigers in the final round by firing scores of 5-under par 67, while senior Smylie Kaufman, junior All-America hopeful Stewart Jolly and sophomore Zach Wright added rounds of 2-under par 70 toward LSU’s team total to lead the team into the NCAA Championships for the second-straight season and the fourth time in five years.
The Tigers were among five teams advancing from the 14-team field at the NCAA Columbia Regional into the 2014 NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championships that follows on May 23-28 at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kansas. No. 2-ranked and No. 1-seeded Oklahoma State claimed the NCAA Columbia Regional title with a winning score of 33-under 831, including a 16-under 272 in the final round, followed by 24th-ranked and No. 4-seeded Arkansas in second place at 28-under 836 and No. 8-seeded Missouri in third place at 27-under 837.
The Tigers have made a habit of closing strong late during the championship season as they have fired their two lowest team scores of the season during the final rounds at the SEC Championships and NCAA Columbia Regional. They earned a runner-up finish at the SEC Championships after posting a school-record round of 17-under par 263 in the final round before firing a 14-under par 274 on Saturday afternoon.
“There was some strong play from our team this week,” said LSU head coach Chuck Winstead. “As a group, we finally got a few putts to fall on the back nine today. Once again, we’re so happy and proud of Smylie. The 29 he had on the back nine was special after a rough start. This group has had a good run this spring. We’re looking forward to our next step and a good week at nationals.”
Kaufman finished as the top Tiger for the second-straight tournament as he cracked the Top 10 of the leaderboard in a tie for sixth place with his team-low 54-hole score of 7-under par 209 for the weekend.
After making the turn at 5-over par on his round with a score of 41 on the front nine, Kaufman reeled off a back nine for the ages that featured an eagle 3 at the par-five 10th hole followed by back-to-back birdies at the par-four 11th and par-three 12th holes and three-straight birdies at the par-five 15th, par-three 16th and par-four 17th holes as he came in at 29 for a round of 2-under par 70 to cap the championship.
Kaufman has caught fire in the championship season as he followed a runner-up finish in his debut at the SEC Men’s Golf Championships by tying for sixth place on the board in his regional debut at the NCAA Columbia Regional. He is now 18-under par over his last six rounds of competition after also finishing as the SEC silver medalist at the SEC Championships with a final score of 11-under par 199.
LSU’s All-SEC duo of Jolly and Thompson each tied for 21st place in regional play this weekend while breaking par at 2-under par 214 during the competition. Each wrapped the championship with his lowest score for the weekend as Thompson fired a bogey-free 5-under 67 and Jolly added a bogey-free round of his own with a 2-under 70 to help lead the way for the Tigers.
Wright followed in a tie for 23rd place at 1-under par 215 for the championship, while Taylor rounded out the lineup in a tie for 26th place with a 54-hole score of even-par 216 on the weekend.
Missouri’s Emilio Cuartero fired a 7-under par 65 to take the individual title at the NCAA Columbia Regional, as he finished one shot clear of a trio of golfers in a tie for second place with his winning score of 11-under par 205 on the weekend. Missouri teammate Hunter Kraus and Oklahoma State’s Talor Gooch and Jordan Niebrugge each tied for second place on the leaderboard at 10-under par 206 for the event.
NCAA COLUMBIA REGIONAL – FINAL ROUND RESULTS
TEAM SCORES (Par 864)
1. Oklahoma State 272-287-272 – 831 -33; 2. Arkansas 289-270-277 – 836 -28; 3. Missouri 281-280-276 – 837 -27; T4. LSU 289-286-274 – 849 -15; T4. Iowa State 293-286-270 – 849 -15; 6. Arizona State 291-285-282 – 858 -6; 7. Virginia 285-303-276 – 864 E; 8. San Diego State 294-288-284 – 866 +2; 9. Iowa 291-294-284 – 869 +5; 10. Denver 300-301-283 – 884 +20; 11. Middle Tennessee State 301-292-292 – 885 +21; 12. Ohio State 308-303-276 – 887 +23; 13. Loyola-Maryland 308-294-286 – 888 +24; 14. Bryant 316-316-296 – 928 +64.
TOP 10 INDIVIDUALS (Par 216)
1. Emilio Cuartero, Missouri, 70-70-65 – 205 -11; T2. Talor Gooch, Oklahoma State, 67-73-66 – 206 -10; T2. Hunter Kraus, Missouri, 68-69-69 – 206 -10; T2. Jordan Niebrugge, Oklahoma State, 65-73-68 – 206 -10; 5. Kolton Crawford, Arkansas, 72-69-67 – 208 -8; T6. Smylie Kaufman, LSU, 72-67-70 – 209 -7; T6. Denny McCarthy, Virginia, 69-73-67 – 209 -7; T6. Scott Fernandez, Iowa State, 72-71-66 – 209 -7; T6. Nicolas Echavarria, Arkansas, 73-67-69 – 209 -7; T6. Sebastian Cappelen, Arkansas, 73-67-69 – 209 -7.