Columbus, OH-D.J. Trahan fired a final round 66 and Gregg Jones added a 70 to lead Clemson to a third place finish at the NCAA men's golf championship at the Scarlet Course on the Ohio State campus in Columbus, OH.
It marked the sixth straight year that Clemson has finished in the top 10 in the nation in men's golf, the longest streak by any Clemson sport since 1980-86 when the men's tennis team had a seven-year streak. Clemson is the only school in the nation with six straight top 10 NCAA golf finishes.
Clemson shot a 281 total on Saturday, three under par and much improved over the team's 14-over par 298 on Friday. Clemson went into the final round in 13th place, but jumped over all but two schools to reach its final finish.
Minnesota, who had earlier in the year announced that it was dropping men's golf, but now will continue the sport, won the National Championship with a two-under par total of 1134. The Gophers shot a six-under par 278 on Saturday to claim the crown. Georgia Tech, who had a share of the lead after all three rounds, finished second with a two over par 1138 score. Texas was tied with Clemson at six-over-par 1142, while Augusta State was fifth at 1143.
Minnesota had the day's top round at 278, while Clemson, Augusta State and Purdue all shot 281s. N.C State finished at 1144 and was sixth in the tournament, giving the ACC three of the top six teams. Purdue was seventh at 1145, giving the Big Ten another top finisher, while Pepperdine was eighth at 1146. Arizona and Tulsa were tied for ninth at 1150.
Clemson was in the hunt for the national crown just nine holes into the day. Playing in the first tee times with Purdue and Augusta State, Clemson played the back nine first and posted a six-under par score for those nine holes. Clemson entered the round trailing by eight shots and quickly got back into the hunt for the championship with a 31 from Trahan a 33 from Jones and a 34 from Catalioto.
Clemson continued to play solid over its second nine and at one point trailed Minnesota by just one stroke with five holes to play. But, Clemson made a couple of bogeys down the stretch and Minnesota, who was playing the back nine, which was the easier nine on Saturday, came away with the victory.
Trahan had an outstanding final round of the season in shooting the 66. He was four under par for his first six holes, including and eagle three on the 12th hole when he chipped in from heavy rough. He then birdied the par three 13th and the par four 14th with putts inside five feet and a 15 footer for birdie on the 16th hole. His good fortune continued on his second nine when he made a 50-foot putt for birdie at the sixth hole that had at least two breaks. A bogey on the seventh hole stopped his momentum, but he still finished with a five under par 66.
It was Trahan's 16th round in the sixties this year, the fourth time he
has had a 66, his career best. He broke Chris Patton's Clemson record for
rounds in the 60s in a season. Patton had 15 in 1988-89. Trahan finished the year with a stroke average of 70.33, eighth best in NCAA history for one season. "I was upset with the way I played yesterday," said Trahan who had a 78 in the third round. "I was not down as much as I was mad. You know you will have rounds like that in golf, but you certainly don't want them in the NCAAs.
"Today I got off to a good start when I chipped in on the 12th hole for eagle. Then I hit the ball very well on the next two holes to make birdie. I am very proud of the way we came back today as a team. We wanted to win the national championship and we are disappointed that we didn't. But, we didn't hang our heads after yesterday and we were in the hunt today."
Jones shot a one-under-par 71 and finished with a 283 total for the tournament, two strokes behind Trahan. He had three rounds under par in the event. "I shot under par but it was a struggle out there today. There were some putts that I should have made, but overall it was a good tournament. I was proud of the way we came together as a team and jumped over some pretty good teams to get to third."
Martin Catalioto had an even par 71, giving Clemson three players at even or better in the final round. The first year freshman was actually Clemson's third best player over the course of the tournament with a 293
score. Ben Duncan's final round 74 counted towards the team score and he
finished with a 295 total. Matt Hendrix shot a final round 76 and finished at 294. He had been Clemson's most consistent player over the last two rounds.
Clemson Head Coach Larry Penley was also pleased with the way his team responded on Saturday. "I was somewhat worried about our team's mental state after Friday," said Penley, who has now taken Clemson to a top five finish six times in his Clemson career. "Last night they got together in their rooms, ordered pizza and talked about what had happened. They didn't even leave the hotel. It showed me that they would come out with a new focus for the final round.
"We were right there on the back nine. It was a terrific comeback. They didn't feel sorry for themselves, they played great golf in the final round. I am proud of this team and what it has accomplished. We started the year ranked ninth and had to regroup after losing two first team All-Americans in John Engler and Lucas Glover. We have everyone back for next year. They will learn from this experience."
This was the best finish ever for a Clemson team that did not have a senior in its lineup. The previous best was in 1999 when the Tigers finished eighth.
Clemson at NCAA Men's Golf Championship
D.J. Trahan 71-66-78-66 281
Gregg Jones 69-69-75-70 283
Martin Catalioto 74-72-76-71 293
Matt Hendrix 77-70-71-76 294
Ben Duncan 72-73-76=74 295
Clemson Team 286-277-298-281 1142
Clemson NCAA Tournament Finishes since 1997
1997 at Conway Farms, Chicago, IL 3rd
1998 at Albuquerque, NM 2nd
1999 at Hazeltine, Chaska, MN 8th
2000 at Auburn, AL 7th
2001 at Durham, NC 2nd
2002 at Columbus, OH 3rd