June 2, 2007
Williamsburg, Va. – Freshman Chesson Hadley fired an even-par 70 on Saturday to finish in a tie for fourth place at his first NCAA Division I Golf championship, but the Yellow Jackets as a whole weren’t able to keep pace and dropped to eighth place in the final standings at the Golden Horseshoe Golf Club.
Hadley finished in a four-way tie with Zach Sucher of UAB, Daniel Summerhays of Brigham Young and Michael Thompson of Alabama at 5-under-par 280, four shots off the lead of freshman Jamie Lovemark of Southern California. His finish at Golden Horseshoe assures him of honorable mention All-America honors. Cameron Tringale struggled to a 74 Saturday but still finished in a tie for ninth place.
“It was awesome and I had a great time,” said Hadley, who did not qualify to play in a tournament for Tech in the fall. “It was a solid tournament just to know that I can come out here and hit good shots and make putts. This is the biggest tournament I’ve ever played in.”
Hadley, from Raleigh, N.C., felt he had the ability to capture medalist honors, saying, “I thought I would win today. I played well today, I just didn’t have it all the way.”
Still, he completed a stellar post-season in which he posted top-10 finishes in the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship, the NCAA East Regional and here at the national championship. He played 10 post-season rounds in 8-under par and averaged 70.4 strokes.
“You just knew if he could stay at it, he’s a pretty talented kid now that he’s got the whole thing,” said Tech coach Bruce Heppler. “He put on 15 pounds since he got here in the fall. He was a praying mantis when he got here, about a buck-45. He’s got a really bright future. The thing I was watching the most from his junior play was his emotional maturity, because he’s a real emotional cat. The way he’s controlled himself and his emotions, he’s done a phenomenal job for a freshman.”
Lovemark, who shot a 64 Saturday and finished at 9-under-par 271, won medalist honors by two shots over Kyle Stanley of Clemson (7-under 273), who was entered as an individual. Rob Grube of Stanford was third at 6-under 274.
Stanford (11-under-par 1,109 for 72 holes) led the championship wire-to-wire and took the title by 12 shots, never giving up any ground to the field on Saturday with a 1-under-par 279. Georgia played a 1-over-par round on Saturday and rose to second place at 1-over-par 1,121 for the championship, with Charlotte and Lamar tying for third at 5-over-par 1,125. Coastal Carolina (+8), which began the day in second place, faded to fifth after a 18-over-par round, and Alabama (+9) dropped to sixth after an 11-over-par day, while UCLA (+10) finished seventh.
In sixth place to start the day, Tech (11-over-par for the championship) played a splendid front nine in seven strokes under par and appeared to be on its way to a second or third-place finish. But the back nine, and the par-3 12th hole in particular, undid the Jackets’ bid for their seventh top-5 finish in the last 10 years.
Tech gave away 15 shots on the incoming nine, five alone on the 12th, which plays over a lake, and five of them on the last three holes. Even Hadley was not immune at the 12th hole after posting a double-bogey.
“We got to 6-under at the turn, and then the wheels came off,” said head coach Bruce Heppler. “Ten, 11 and 12 are really hard holes. We were not going to catch Stanford, but we had a chance to finish in the top four and get one of those nice NCAA trophies, but it just didn’t happen on the back side.”
Senior Roberto Castro went 3-under-par on the front nine, then finished with a 71 in his final collegiate round, boosting him into a tie for 46th place. Sophomore Taylor Hall posted a 73 and senior Kevin Larsen a career-closing 74, leaving him in a tie for 68th.
“I’m more disappointed that Roberto and Kevin couldn’t win one,” Hadley said. “I would not be here if not for Roberto and Kevin. I love those guys, and it’s upsetting to know that they’re not going to have another chance at this.”
Sophomore Cameron Tringale, tied for the lead after 54 holes, shot 74 with a pair of double bogeys in his round, but still finished in a tie for ninth place overall at 2-under-par 278. It was his second top-10 finish in two NCAA Championships, and fifth top-10 finish of the spring.
Despite the disappointing back nine, Heppler was encouraged by his team’s performance in the spring, which brought the Yellow Jackets’ 10th ACC Championship. a rise from 24th to ninth in the national rankings, a second-place finish in the NCAA East Regional and a top-10 finish here.
Castro was a co-recipient of the Byron Nelson Award, which goes to the nation’s top graduating senior golfer. He and Tringale earned All-ACC honors and will likely be on the All-America team with Hadley when it is announced on Monday.
“To start the spring 23rd or 24th in the rankings after playing so poorly in the fall, to get here and finish eighth is pretty good,” said Heppler. “The guys did a good job this spring, they really did. It looks like we’ll have three All-Americans, two Academic All-Americans. We won a conference championship and have a Byron Nelson winner. Both our seniors have graduated. So you keep trying to do the right things and keep coming to the tournament. That’s a pretty good resume for the team.”