Clemson shot a final round 298 as a team and finished in 16th place in the team competition. The Tigers tied with UCLA and Oregon State with 54-hole scores of 11 over par 875. ACC Teams Florida State and Georgia Tech made the eight-team cut and will compete in the match play tournament starting on Friday.
The Tigers need to finish in the top eight to advance to the Match Play championship of the competition. The NCAA is in its second year of deciding the national champion with an eight-team single elimination match play tournament after 54 holes of stroke play.
It was a disappointing ending to the season for Larry Penley’s Tigers who had finished second to number-one ranked Oklahoma State by just two shots at the NCAA Regional two weeks ago in Alpharetta, GA. Clemson then ranked fifth after the first day at the national tournament, and seventh after the second day.
Clemson got off to a great start on Thursday as well, and shot a team score of just one over par on the back nine, the team’s first nine of the day. Clemson had played the front nine at 10 under par for the first two rounds, so Tiger coaches and players were optimistic Clemson could make the 54-hole eight-team cut. In fact, Clemson was under the eight-team cutline for the first 49 holes of the 54 hole event.
Clemson played the first three holes on the front nine at four under par and stood in sixth place at two under par for the tournament. But the last nine holes were disappointing. Between 7:00 PM and 8:30 PM, Clemson played the last six holes in 12 over par as a team and dropped from sixth place to 16th place in the standings.
During that time every Clemson golfer was at least two over par.
There were some unlucky shots that contributed to the demise. Martin hit a second shot from 240 yards on the par five second hole that hit a pin high greenside sprinkler cover. Instead of bouncing to within five feet of the green, or even on the green, the ball caromed over the green to the top of a hill next to a tree. Martin did make a miraculous par, but he would have been in great shape for a birdie had the ball not hit the sprinkler cover.
On the sixth hole, when Luke Hopkins hit his third shot to the green from the rough it landed a foot short of kicking on to the green and rolling close to the hole. Instead it stayed in the greenside rough and he made a bogey. On the ninth hole, Jacob Burger’s approach to the green landed 10 feet from the pin, but spun back to 25 feet to a difficult area of the green. He then four putted for double bogey. Corbin Mills approach on the ninth hole landed 10 feet from the pin, then spun back off the green and into a hazard.
“It was a complete collapse, what else can I say,” said Head Coach Larry Penley. “We were in great position to make the match play tournament. We were in position the entire tournament until the last five or six holes. We just couldn’t finish.
“We had some unfortunate breaks coming down the stretch. When Ben hit that sprinkler head on the second hole (his 11th of the day) and it bounced over the green you had to wonder if it was going to be our day. I think that might have rattled him a bit.
“Overall, we didn’t putt well today. Crawford Reeves is one of our best putters throughout the year and he had five three-putts. Jacob Burger four-putted the last hole. Putting is something we did very well at the regional, but we did not do it very well here and it cost us.
“I want to thank the seniors, Clemson graduates, Ben Martin and Luke Hopkins for a great five years. They have meant a lot to our program. As far as the other three who played in this event (Mills, Reeves and Burger) they have to forget about the end of this tournament and comeback strong next year.”
Martin finished in a tie for 10th place in the individual race with a 212 score for his 54 holes. He ended his career in grand style as he completed all six of his NCAA Tournament rounds at 72 or better and had four rounds under par in NCAA play. His top 10 finish was the sixth of the year for Martin, who finished third at the NCAA Regional. He finished his career with a stroke average of exactly 73.00 for 107 career rounds, 12th best in Clemson golf history.
Martin got off to a great start on Thursday with birdies on the first two holes. When he made an eagle on the par five 17th hole, his eighth hole of the day, he was five under par for the round. He hit a two iron from 250 yards to within eight feet on that hole, then made the eagle putt. It was just his third eagle of the year.
Luke Hopkins and Corbin Mills tied for Clemson’s second best golfer of the tournament with 54-hole scores of 221. Hopkins shot a 78 on Thursday and Mills had a 75. A highlight for Mills was his third birdie in three rounds on the par five sixth hole. That birdie putt Clemson on the cutline and in eighth place at the time.
Mills joined Martin as the only Tigers to shoot 75 or better in each round at The Honors Course. Burger, a sophomore from Orangeburg, had a round of 75 on Thursday and finished at 225 for the 54 holes, 103rd place individually.
Crawford Reeves finished with a 78 on Thursday and a 235 total for the three days. The freshman from Greenville, SC started slowly on Thursday, with a double bogey on the 10th hole, but played the last nine holes at one over par, the only Tiger who could make that claim.