Larry Penley makes ACC Golf history with latest tournament win

CUTrevor 2021-04-07 16:49:24

Clemson, S.C.-Jacob Bridgeman birdied five of the last six holes to finish with a four-under-par 67 and lead Clemson to the championship of the Collegiate Invitational @ the Country Club of Birmingham on Wednesday.  The fourth-ranked Tigers finished with a team total of  854, six shots ahead of 19th ranked Tennessee.

It was the third team victory in the last four tournaments for the Tigers and the 82nd win over Head Coach Larry Penley’s 38-year career.  In his final season as Clemson head coach, Penley is now the career leader in tournament victories in ACC history.  

Clemson and Tennessee were tied Tuesday night after the second round at three-over-par, but the Tigers shot one-under 283 as a team on Wednesday, six shots better than the Volunteers.  The 14-team field included seven of the top 25 teams in the nation and 20 of the top 100 players.  There were nine SEC teams in the tournament and Clemson defeated those teams by a combined 203 shots.

Bridgeman came out of nowhere to finish second by just one shot to Bryce Lewis of Tennessee, who had a seven-shot lead entering the final round.   But Lewis shot three-over -par  74 in Wednesday’s final round and Bridgeman a 67 to make the medalist competition come down to the final hole.  Lewis made par on the 18th hole to win by a shot at six-under-par 207.

Bridgeman’s day got off to a rough start with a double bogey on the first hole and he finished the front nine at one-over-par 36.  He was still one-over-par for the day when he started his run on the 13th hole with a birdie.    It was Bridgeman’s fifth top 10 in six tournaments this year, his third top two finish. He finished this event with 16 birdies, best in the field.  Wednesday was his 14th under-par round and his 11th round in the 60s.

“Jacob can really get on a run with that putter,” said Penley of his junior who now has a stroke average 69.33.  “He gets in these streak where he believes he can make everything.  He made birdies on five of his last six holes.  He hit it to eight feet on the one hole he made par down the stretch.”

Zack Gordon was Clemson’s second best golfer of the tournament with a score of 212 over the 54 holes, good enough for third place.   The junior played  the number-five position in the Clemson lineup, as William Nottingham participating in MacKenzie Tour qualifying.   He had rounds of 72-68 -71 for the top finish of his career.

“Zack  was terrific the entire tournament.  He really held it together the entire day and finished strong with a birdie on the final hole.  Colby Patton also was big today with a 70.”

Turk Pettit had a final round 75 and finished at 217 for the 54 holes, good enough for 20th place.   Clemson’s top ranked player according to Golfstat entering the tournament, he was Clemson’s non-counter on Wednesday, an example of the depth of this Clemson team.

Patton, who had been Clemson’s non-counter the first two rounds, shot a solid 70 on Wednesday, second best among Clemson golfers. The native of Fountain Inn, S.C. made a bogey on the first hole, then played the next 14 holes at four-under-par before finishing at one-under for the day.  His 54-hole score of 222 was good enough for 38th.

Kyle Cottam, who had a counting score in all three rounds, finished with a 75 on Wednesday and a 223 total for the tournament, good enough for 43rd place.

Collegiate Invitational @ Country Club of Birmingham
April 5-7, 2021
Birmingham Country Club
Birmingham Ala.

Team Results
1. Clemson  854 (+2), 2.  Tennessee 860 (+8),  3.  North Florida 863 (+11), 4.  Vanderbilt 869 (+17),  5.  Auburn 871 (+19),  6.  Mississippi 872 (+20),  7.  LSU 874 (+22),  8.  Arkansas 875 (+23),  9.  Charlotte  876 (+24),  10.  Virginia 877 (+25)  11.  UAB 881 (+29),  12.  Alabama 884 (+32),  13.  Mississippi State 886 (+34), 14.  Kentucky  899 (+47).

Clemson Individuals
2. Jacob Bridgeman 68-73-67/208;   3.  Zack Gordon  72-68-71/211;   20.  Turk Pettit 71-71-75/217;  38.  Colby Patton  76-76-70/222;   43.  Kyle Cottam 75-73-75/223

CUTrevor 2021-04-07 16:55:54

·  Penley’s 82 wins include just two with Clemson as the host school playing on what could be considered a Clemson home course.  Those two wins have taken place at the Clemson Invitational at The Cliffs at Keowee Falls near Clemson.    The other 80 wins have taken place on the road. 

·  With the 82 wins Penley has established an ACC record for career wins.   Wake Forest legend Jesse Haddock had 74 tournament wins and current Georgia Tech coach Bruce Heppler had 65 as of April 7, 2021.

·  Penley’s greatest victory took place at the 2003 NCAA Tournament in Stillwater, Oklahoma where the Tigers won by two shots over host school Oklahoma State.   That was an amazing accomplishment considering the Cowboys had a team with three future PGA Tour players and it was played on the Cowboys own Karsten Creek Course. 

·  In addition to the NCAA Championship in 2003, Penley’s Tigers have won seven NCAA Regional Tournaments, more than any other college coach in history.  The Tigers have won nine ACC Tournaments as well, including the 2016 league event by 11 shots.

·   A further look inside Penley’s career shows that his teams have been able to win on different types of courses, hard or easy, long or short.    His teams have won with a score below-par 38 times, and with a score over par 41 times.  Once they have won with an even par score.   The other two victories came in match play events.

·  The Tigers have won tournaments in 16 different states, Puerto Rico and Japan over the last 38 years.  

·  What is most impressive is that he has won on a consistent basis throughout his career.   He won 19 tournaments in the 1980s, 25 in the 1990s, 15 in he 2000s and 18 in the  2010s and five so far in the 2020s  That includes 17 tournament victories in the last five years, so he certainly has not been coasting at the end of his career.

·  Penley pupils have also won on an individual basis.  Under Penley’s tutelage, Clemson golfers have won 60 medalist honors, including one NCAA National Tournament (Charles Warren), two NCAA Regionals and six ACC Tournaments.   On the amateur level, Penley has had two US Amateur champions, three United States Public Links champions and 13 South Carolina Amateur Champions.