May 18, 2002
Roswell, Ga. – Top-ranked Georgia Tech surged on the front nine and led by as many as four shots over 36-hole leader Clemson at one point, but the Tigers rallied on the back side Saturday as the Atlantic Coast Conference teams tied for the NCAA Division I Men’s East Regional championship at Ansley Golf Club’s Settindown Creek.
Tech posted a 10-over-par team score of 298 for a tournament total of 876 (12 over par), making up the one-shot deficit after 36 holes. Clemson shot 299, led by junior D.J. Trahan, who shot his third straight subpar round with a 71. Senior Kris Mikkelsen and freshman Chan Wongluekiet paced the Yellow Jackets, each carding a 74.
“It’s amazing how you can do out there and hit it so many times, you play five guys and count four, then you add them all up, and you end up in a tie,” said Tech head coach Bruce Heppler. “We’ve lost the national championship in a playoff in exactly the same way. It really teaches them the value of every shot. In the end you just don’t know.”
“It’s a hard golf course, and for three days they really battled and I’m happy for them. If you hit a marginal shot, not a bad shot, but one to this side of the hole or that side, and you can have no chance. Every hole is a challenge. You lose thought of what you’re doing and you let it get away from you. Both Kris and Matt made bogey [at 18], and they will put it on their shoulders. But there are other bogeys and doubles all the way around. The key thing is not to make anything out of it.”
“We got off to a good start through five holes. But there’s no letup out there. I hope they’ve learned that you have to just keep playing. We made a couple of birdies on 16 and 17, and I thought it might come down [to the last hole]. Everybody really hung in there.”
The co-titles marked the fourth time that Georgia Tech has won or shared the East Regional championship, while Clemson scored its fifth title, outright or shared, in the 12 years since the regional tournaments have been conducted. The Tigers have qualified for the NCAA Championship for the 19th straight year, while the Yellow Jackets will participate in the nationals for the fifth straight year and the 16th time since 1985.
North Carolina, who moved into third place Friday, tightened the race Saturday by shooting 296 and finishing one stroke back in third place at 877. The Tar Heels were led for the second straight day by Bob Cherry, whose 1-under-71 gave him a tournament total of 3-under-par 213 and second place individually. Dustin Bray also shot 71 for the Tar Heels.
Augusta State posted the best round in the difficult and windy morning conditions, a 1-over-par 289 that vaulted the Jaguars into fourth place with a tournament total of 885. Virginia Commonwealth, who jumped 15 positions after Friday’s round, finished fifth at 888.
The top 10 teams in the final standings (with the afternoon rounds still to be completed) advance to the NCAA Men’s Division I Championship May 29-June 1 in Columbus, Ohio.
“We’re looking forward to going up there,” said Heppler. “This is seven times this year that we’ve beaten a field like this to win, so our guys have a lot of confidence. If they play like they’re capable, there is no reason we can’t go into the last round and have a chance to win.”
Trahan won the individual title at 6-under-par 210. The junior from Inman, S.C., shot 69-70 in the first two rounds and set a Clemson record for subpar rounds in a season with 25. Tech senior Matt Weibring shot 75 Saturday to finish at even-par 216.
“I didn’t play my best today,” said Weibring. “I got off to a really great start, three-under through four, but then I really struggled. The wind was swirling and switching, and you really couldn’t tell which way it was going most of the time. I hung in there and made a birdie on 16. It’s a tough tee shot on 18. You’re up on top of the hill, the wind is swirling, and I hit a bad drive left into the trees. Then I had to pitch out. I was disappointed to make a bogey, and we didn’t win it [outright]. But we still won and have some momentum going into nationals. I don’t think you can ever play under heat too much. The more you do it, the better you get at it. I’m glad we got a chance to do that.
Wongluekiet finished the tournament at 4-over-par 220, while Mikkelsen posted a 5-over 221. Freshman Nick Thompson was Tech’s fourth counting player Saturday with a 75, giving him a tournament total of 222, while junior Troy Matteson shot 78 for a 54-hole total of 227.
Clemson counted a trio of 76s by Gregg Jones, Matt Hendrix and Martin Catalioto to go with Trahan’s score Saturday. North Carolina received counting scores of 77 each from Ramon Bescanza and Brad Moldin.
NCAA EAST REGIONAL MEN'S DIVISION I CHAMPIONSHIPFinal Round Clubhouse Leaders at 3 p.m., May 18
Georgia Tech 291-287-298 – 876 (+12) Clemson 286-291-299 – 876 (+12) North Carolina 295-286-296 – 877 (+13) Augusta State 299-297-289 – 885 (+21) Virginia Commonwealth 306-286-296 – 888 (+24) Georgia Southern 299-298-294 – 891 (+27) Auburn 299-298-296 – 893 (+29) Georgia 300-296-300 – 896 (+32) Florida 300-290-309 – 899 (+35) Alabama-Birmingham 301-301-297 – 899 (+35) Wake Forest 299-296-305 – 900 (+36) South Alabama 313-291-297 – 901 (+37) Tennessee 294-310-300 – 904 (+40) College of Charleston 303-300-301 – 904 (+40) North Florida 299-303-311 – 913 (+49)