May 19, 2012
ATHENS, Ga. --- Needing a top-5 finish, the 24th-ranked Georgia men's golf team secured a berth in the NCAA Championships with a fourth-place effort on Saturday in the Athens Regional at the UGA Golf Course.
The Bulldogs finished at 12-over 864 with a 12-over 296 in the final round and next will play in the NCAAs May 30-June 3 at the Rivera Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif. Also advancing from the Athens Regional were Alabama (828), East Carolina (853), North Florida (858) and Iowa (866). Long Beach State's Philip Chian (210) claimed the regional's individual berth.
"At the beginning of the year, knowing all the new faces we were going to put in the lineup, I didn't even know if we'd have a chance to make it to the regionals," Georgia coach Chris Haack said. "To be able to not only make it but finish fourth and move on, I'd say it's been a great year. No matter what happens, it's been a great year."
"Luckily we had enough clutch pars to get it done," sophomore Joey Garber said. "Whether you're first or fifth you're going, so we're happy about that."
The Bulldogs, sporting a lineup of one junior, three sophomores and a freshman, advanced to the NCAAs for the 14th time in 16 seasons under Haack. Georgia won the 1999 and 2005 NCAA titles and came in second in 2007 and 2011.
On Saturday, the Bulldogs got a 2-over 73 from junior T.J. Mitchell, 3-over 74s from Garber and freshman Nicholas Reach, and a 4-over 75 from sophomore Brian Carter. Sophomore Keith Mitchell had the Bulldogs' non-counting score of 7-over 78.
T.J. Mitchell came in seventh individually at 2-under 211, seven shots behind medalist Justin Thomas of Alabama (204). Carter placed 18th at 3-over 216, Garber finished 29th at 6-over 219, Reach came in 45th at 8-over 221 and Keith Mitchell placed 51st at 9-over 222.
"My heart lost a few years again and I'll probably have a few more gray hairs," said Haack, whose 2010 Bulldogs lost in a regional playoff and whose 2011 squad advanced by one stroke. "It is such a stressful week. To be able to get through it and make it, that's all we needed to do. We probably made it a little tighter than we needed to make it, but the guys came through. We're all excited, we'll have some fun and get ready for nationals. ... This is a great learning experience for these guys and it will pay dividends down the road."
Alabama coach Jay Seawell: "They fought hard and I'm very proud of them. I thought they competed well again today; the pin placements just made it hard to get birdies. ... We're pretty confident, and this will help even more. We're comfortable with who we are and what we can accomplish."
Alabama medalist Justin Thomas: "We practiced really well, got prepared, and it's really cool to get the win as a team and move onto nationals. Going 1-2-3 is just a big bonus."