May 31, 2012
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. --- The Georgia men's golf team saved its best for last on Thursday at the NCAA Championships.
The Bulldogs carded a 4-over-par 288 at The Riviera Club, seven shots better than their first round and 10 strokes better than their second round. Thursday's loop gave Georgia a three-day total of 29-over 881.
The Bulldogs, however, fell short of their goal of a top-8 finish to advance to match play. Georgia wound up in 17th place, six shots behind eighth. The teams advancing to match play starting on Friday were Alabama (859), UCLA (861), Texas (869), California (871), San Diego State (871), Washington (872) and Oregon (873). Kent State and Florida State shared the eighth spot at 875 and will have a playoff on Thursday to determine which team moves on.
"We're disappointed about not being able to advance, but we definitely closed on a high note," Georgia coach Chris Haack said. "We avoided some of the big pitfalls today. We played a little looser today and down the stretch we finished better, which is something we wanted them to do."
Sophomore Keith Mitchell paced the Bulldogs on Thursday, firing a 2-under 69. Sophomore Brian Carter added a 1-over 72, junior T.J. Mitchell had a 2-over 73, freshman Nicholas Reach signed for a 3-over 74 and sophomore Joey Garber posted a 4-over 75.
Keith Mitchell wound up as the top Bulldog in the field, coming in ninth at 1-over 214. T.J. Mitchell finished at 5-over 218, followed by Reach at 12-over 225, Carter at 13-over 226 and Garber at 14-over 227. Illinois' Thomas Pieters claimed NCAA medalist honors as he finished at 5-under 208.
And while the 2012 season may be over, the Bulldogs quickly turned their attention to the 2013 campaign.
"Being here was a great accomplishment for our team," Carter said. "It's a tremendous help not losing anybody. Next year, the NCAAs are in Atlanta, and if we keep growing up, we might have a really good shot at it."
"Before the round, we told the guys we wanted them to learn for the future," Haack said. "We wanted to stress what it takes to have a complete round and how valuable every shot is for all three rounds. As they look back, they'll find a couple of shots they'll wish they had saved. If they learn that, it will be helpful down the road."
Added Keith Mitchell, "If we stick to our game plan next year and play strong through the fall and spring, I think we'll be fine."