ATLANTA — On a drama-filled day at Capital City Club, Texas A&M finished stroke play in a tie for sixth at the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship but missed out on advancing to match play during a four-team playoff.
“That was the most exciting round of golf I’ve ever been a part of,” Texas A&M head coach J.T. Higgins said. “Our guys fought so hard, they gave us everything they had and never quit. They earned it, I’ll go to my grave believing that they should be playing tomorrow in the elite eight. I’m so proud of our kids, the birdies on No. 9, Ty’s par putt under pressure at that hole. This is just an amazing group of guys. They’ve come so far as a team and developed as players. I’ll never be able to express my gratitude to this group of guys.”
After the Aggies had seemingly clinched a spot in match play with a long, par-saving putt by sophomore Ty Dunlap on A&M’s final hole of the day, the par-four ninth, Dunlap was assessed a one-stroke penalty for slow play causing the Aggies to fall back into a four-way tie to determine the final three spots in match play.
During the one-hole team playoff, the Aggies finished at one-over as a squad while New Mexico, UNLV and Arizona State advanced at even par.
Texas A&M (285-275-282=842) roared back from as many as six shots behind eighth place during the middle of its round on Thursday to finish the tournament at two-over par to put them even with New Mexico (292-274-276=842), UNLV (286-284-272=842) and Arizona State (270-288-284=842) triggering the playoff.
“Our guys knew what they needed to do on the back nine,” Higgins added. “When we made the turn, I told our guys that each of them needed to get a shot back and we’re in. They did that and we thought it was enough, but unfortunately it wasn’t.”
Top-ranked California (277-272-275=824, -16), Georgia Tech (274-274-282=830, -10), Alabama (275-276-282=833, -7), Texas (279-271-283=833, -7) and Illinois (276-281-278=835, -5) also qualified for match play which will begin Friday and crown a national champion on Sunday.
Dunlap (69-68-68=205, -5) stood out at A&M’s highest finisher at the event, firing his third consecutive round under-par on Thursday to finish stroke play in a tie for eighth overall at five-under par, just four shots behind individual national champion Max Homa (70-65-66=201, -9) of Cal.
“We’re a combined eight shots away from qualifying for match play the last four years,” Higgins said. “That’s pretty tough, we’re so, so close, but I think there is nothing to be ashamed of finishing in the top 10 in the nation. I just can’t say enough about these guys and how hard they fought for that.”
Evans (74-68-70=212, +2) finished in a tie for 49th place on the leaderboard while Veerman (71-70-72=213, +3) was just a shot back with a share of 60th place.
The strong showing at the NCAA Championship continues an impressive string of recent success for the A&M men’s golf program as it stands at the only program in the country to finish the top 15 each of the last six seasons.
“I think that streak says a lot about our program.” Higgins said of A&M’s string of consecutive top-15 finishes. “It means that we’re one of the best golf programs in the country and that we’re going to be in the hunt for a national championship every year.”