HUTCHINSON, Kan. – A historic 2013-14 season came to an end for the LSU Men’s Golf team as the No. 3-seeded Tigers went down by a 4-1 scoreline to the No. 2-seeded and defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide in the NCAA Semifinals of the 2014 NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championships held Tuesday afternoon at Prairie Dunes Country Club.
The Tigers defeated No. 6 seed UCLA by that same 4-1 margin in their quarterfinal match Tuesday morning, setting up an SEC showdown with Alabama for a berth in the national championship match.
Sophomore Zach Wright was the lone Tiger to win his semifinal match as he scored a 1-up victory over Alabama’s senior All-American Cory Whitsett to put the Tigers on the scoreboard in the contest, after the Crimson Tide had already clinched their spot in Wednesday’s title decider. Alabama will face No. 4 seed Oklahoma State in the national championship match to wrap up the collegiate season.
The Tigers went out to arguably the hottest team in college golf this spring as the Crimson Tide brought their No. 1 national ranking to the NCAA Championships in defense of the title they won a year ago over Illinois. It marks the third-straight season in which Alabama has advanced to the national championship match after also finishing as the NCAA runner-up to Texas in 2012.
With their run to the Final Four this week, the Tigers have earned their best team finish at the NCAA Championships since earning a third-place national finish in 1967, while they also finished among the nation’s Top 10 teams for the first time in 25 years when they tied for eighth place in the event in David Toms’ senior season in 1989.
Their performance also capped an outstanding run that featured a victory at Texas A&M’s Aggie Invitational in their regular-season finale before finishing as the SEC runners-up at the SEC Championships in 2014.
“Our guys competed well today. We didn’t quite have our best this afternoon, but give credit to Alabama. They hit the shots they need to hit to swing some pivotal matches,” said LSU head coach Chuck Winstead. “Robby Shelton’s chip in on 16 and a great second shot into 17 was a good example of that. I’m proud of my team. We’re proud of our guys with what they have accomplished this week and this entire spring season.”
A sophomore from Phoenix, Arizona, Wright led throughout his semifinal match with Whitsett as he grabbed the lead for the first time by making par at the par-three fourth hole, and never looked back en route to his 1-up win over the Crimson Tide All-American. Wright held a 2-up advantage three times with wins at No. 9, No. 10 and No. 13 before closing out the match at 1-up for the event.
Wright was undefeated in his two matches on the day as he had already helped the Tigers clinch spot in the semifinals with a 2&1 victory over UCLA’s Matt Pinizzotto in the quarterfinals held Tuesday morning.
Each of the other four matches were tight affairs while remaining all square for much of the front nine before the Crimson Tide pulled away on the back nine. LSU junior Ben Taylor erased a 2-down deficit to square his match with Alabama senior Bobby Wyatt through 11 holes, but the Crimson Tide standout sealed a 3&2 victory in the match to give his team its first point of the day.
Leading LSU’s early challenge was junior Stewart Jolly as he twice held a 1-up advantage on the front nine over Robby Shelton after making par for the par-four fifth hole and birdie at the par-five seventh hole. Shelton then quickly gained a 2-up lead by winning three-straight holes from Nos. 8-10, while Jolly then pulled the match back to all square after making two pars at the par-four 11th and 13th holes.
That’s where the match remained through 15 holes before Shelton closed out Jolly 2&1 with back-to-back birdies at the par-four 16th and par-five 17th holes to extend Alabama’s lead to 2-0 on the day.
It was a 3&2 victory by Trey Mullinax over Tiger junior Curtis Thompson that ultimately clinched the match for the Crimson Tide as his win gave the defending champions a 3-0 lead LSU could not overtake. Tom Lovelady polished off Alabama’s victory with a 1-up win over Smylie Kaufman in a match was halted after 15 holes when Mullinax closed out the deciding match.
NCAA Men's Golf Match Play
May 27, 2014
All Times Central
(3) LSU 4, (6) UCLA 1
1. Curtis Thompson (LSU) def. Preson Valder (UCLA), 1UP
2. Ben Taylor (LSU) def. Anton Arboleda (UCLA), 4 and 3
3. Smylie Kaufman * (LSU) def. Jonathan Garrick (UCLA), 2UP
4. Lorens Chan (UCLA) def. Stewart Jolly (LSU), 4 and 3
5. Zach Wright (LSU) def. Matt Pinizzotto (UCLA), 2 and 1
* Clinched match
(2) Alabama 4, (3) LSU 1
Game 1: Bobby Wyatt (UA) def. Ben Taylor, 3 and 2
Game 2: Robby Shelton (UA) def. Stewart Jolly (LSU), 2 and 1
Game 3: Tom Lovelady (UA) def. Smylie Kaufman (LSU), 1 UP
Game 4: Trey Mullinax (UA) def. Curtis Thompson (LSU), 4 and 2
Game 5: Zach Wright (LSU) def. Cory Whitsett (UA), 1 UP
NCAA Team Results/Schedule
Match 1: (2) Alabama def. (7) SMU, 3-2
Match 2: (3) LSU def. (6) UCLA, 4-1
Match 3: (1) Stanford def. (8) Illinois, 3-2
Match 4: (4) Oklahoma St. def. (5) Georgia Tech, 4.5-0.5
Match 5: (2) Alabama def. (3) LSU, 4-1
Match 6: (4) Oklahoma St. def. (1) Stanford, 4-1
Final (May 28)
Match 7: 2:10 p.m. - (2) Alabama vs. (4) Oklahoma St.