Georgia’s surprising showing in the NCAA Golf Championship came to an end in the semifinals, as the Bulldogs lost 3-1-1 to LSU.
Coming into the NCAAs, the Bulldogs were ranked 28th and 33 in the two main national polls, and were seeded 26th out of the 30 teams to qualify for the championship, which was played at Concession GC in Bradenton, Fla.
The Bulldogs had the lead after three rounds of stroke play, finishing in a tie for third to join seven other teams in the match play portion of the tournament. Georgia, seeded third in the eight-team field, defeated tournament host South Florida 4-1 in the quarterfinals, but lost later that afternoon to LSU after leading midway through the match.
Georgia played well from the outset of the tournament, shooting even par 288 the first round to end the day in second place, two strokes behind eventual stroke play winner Illinois.
Freshman Zach Healy of Peachtree Corners led the Bulldogs with a 70, with Duluth senior Mookie DeMoss next with a 71. Junior Lee McCoy of Clarkesville, the team’s No. 1 player, opened with a 73, making bogey on the 10th hole along with 17 pars. Sam Straka, a junior from Valdosta, had the other counting score for the Bulldogs with a 74.
The Bulldogs shot 293 the second day for a 581 total, seven shots behind USC and four in back of Illinois. Straka led the way with a 70 and Healy added a 72 to finish 36 holes among the individual leaders. DeMoss shot 74 and the Bulldogs had to count a 77 by McCoy, who was 4-over early in the round after a triple bogey on the third hole.
Georgia moved into the lead after the conclusion of the weather-delayed third round, shooting 2-under 286 to move three shots in front of USC and six ahead of Illinois. Healy and DeMoss both shot 2-under 70, with DeMoss carding four birdies in a five-hole stretch before play was halted late in the day. Augusta sophomore Greyson Sigg was 3-under after 14 holes and settled for a 72, with McCoy shooting a 74 after being 3-under after seven.
The Bulldogs shot 291 the final day, the fourth best score among the 15 teams that made the 54-hole cut. Illinois and Vanderbilt both closed with under-par team scores to move past the Bulldogs, with Illinois finishing first at 3-over 1155 and Vanderbilt placing second at 1157.
Alpharetta’s Zack Jaworski shot par or better in three of four rounds for Vanderbilt and tied for 11th in the 156-player field at even par 288. Vanderbilt lost to LSU in the quarterfinals, with Jaworski’s match not completed after it went to extra holes with LSU already having won three matches.
Georgia and Texas, which also shot under par the final round, tied for third at 1158.
McCoy, who was selected first team All-American after stroke play wrapped up, had his best round of the tournament, posting a 2-under 70. He tied for 33rd at 294. DeMoss shot 73 and had the best finish in the tournament among the Bulldogs, tying for 11th at 288. Sigg contributed for the second straight day with a 73 and Straka added a 75, as Healy struggled for the first time in four days with a 77. He still finished tied for 16th at 289.
The Bulldogs drew sixth seed South Florida in their match play opener and scored a decisive victory, winning the only three matches played to their conclusion.
Healy won the first match out 2&1, taking a 2-up lead with birdies on the first two holes and losing only two holes after building a 3-up lead after eight. He halved six straight holes after Trey Valentine cut his lead to one hole, ending the match by winning the 17th.
Straka also started fast, taking a 2-up lead after four holes, before Chase Koepka pulled even after seven. Straka recovered to win three of the next six holes and score a 3&2 victory.
McCoy provided the winning point in the anchor match, playing 15 holes in 8-under par to win 5&3. McCoy was 3-up after four holes with two birdies and an eagle and did not lose a hole.
DeMoss was 1-up after 15 holes and Sigg was 1-down after 16 when both matches were halted with the final outcome already decided. DeMoss trailed in his match after 11 holes, while Sigg jumped out to a 3-up lead after three holes before falling 2-down after 11. He pulled even after 15,, but lost the 16th hole just before McCoy clinched Georgia’s victory.
McCoy was the only Bulldog to win in the afternoon against LSU, defeating Stewart Jolley 2&1 in the anchor match. McCoy won three of the last four holes on the front nine with two birdies and an eagle to take a 2-up lead, and parred the last eight holes to remain in control of the match.
Straka was 3-up twice on the back nine and was still 2-up with two holes to play, but bogeyed the last two holes as. He was playing the first extra hole when LSU won its third match to advance to the finals.
Healy was 1-up after 11 holes in his match, with Georgia ahead in three matches at the time. But LSU senior Ben Taylor applied the pressure down the stretch, winning three of the last seven holes and matching Healy’s birdie at the 17th. A superb approach by Taylor on the 18th led to a conceded birdie and a 2-up win over the Georgia freshman.
Sigg won only one hole in his match and lost 4&3, trailing 3-down at the turn. DeMoss lost four straight holes early and was 4-down after five, losing 7&6.
It was the third time the Bulldogs made it to match play since the tournament format was changed in 2009. The Bulldogs have made it to at least the semifinals each time, reaching the finals in 2011 when they lost 3-2 to Augusta State and former teammate Patrick Reed.
Georgia Tech narrowly missed qualifying for match play, finishing ninth in stroke play with an 1175 total, three shots behind eighth place UCLA. It was a disappointing finish for Atlanta area seniors Ollie Schniederjans and Anders Albertson, who each managed just one good round on the demanding Concession layout.
The Yellow Jackets were tied for sixth after an opening 293, with Albertson notching six birdies and shooting a 69. Chris Petefish, one of two freshmen in the starting lineup, shot a 72 with a 33 on the back nine and fellow freshman James Clark of Columbus contributed a 76 with a late triple bogey. Schniederjans was even par after 15 holes, but was 4-over on the last three and also shot 76.
Tech stayed in the top eight after two rounds, shooting 295 for a 588 total to stand seventh after 36 holes. Sophomore Vince Whaley was low for the Jackets with a 71, carding five birdies. Schniederjans shot 74 and Clark and Albertson both turned in scores of 75. Albertson had two 7s on his scorecard, including a costly triple bogey on his 17th hole.
After three rounds, Tech was tied for eighth with UCLA after a 290. Whaley came up big with seven birdies and a 68, and Schniederjans had his best round of the tournament, shooting a 70 with five birdies. Petefish turned in a solid 73, but the Yellow Jackets had to count Clark’s 79 as Albertson shot 85 with three 7s, two of them triple bogeys.
Clark shot a clutch 2-under 70 the final day, but the next best Tech score was 74, as the Jackets had a team total of 297 to come up three strokes short. Albertson closed out his college career with a 74 and Whaley carded a 76, finishing tied for 33rd at 294, playing the last there rounds in 1-over. Petefish shot 2-under on the back nine, but carded a 77 after a difficult front nine.
The big disappointment for the Jackets was the play of Schniederjans, whose final round for Georgia Tech was a non-counting 78. Schniederjans was 1-under after five holes, but was 7-over after that and finished tied for 49th at 298 after losing in a playoff for medalist honors in last year’s NCAA Championship.
Schniederjans was selected first team All-American for a second straight year, but had a much better junior season when he made a strong run for Player of the Year.
Tech had qualified for match play four of the last five years, failing to make it to the NCAA Championship the other time. Three of those visits to match play ended with losses to the eventual champion, two to Augusta State and once to Alabama in 2013 at Atlanta’s Capital City Club Crabapple Course.