Salem, SC—Phichaksn Maichon made a 50-foot eagle putt on the 16th hole and Vishnu Sadagopan made a par on the 14th to lead Texas A&M to a one-shot victory over Clemson in a playoff for the fifth and final spot in the NCAA National Men’s Golf Tournament from the Salem Regional in Salem, SC.
The Aggies join Georgia Tech (811), Arkansas (819), North Carolina (821) and New Mexico (822) as the five teams that will advance from the 54-hole tournament at the Cliffs at Keowee Falls. Clemson tied for fifth with the 14th-ranked Aggies after the three rounds at 835 strokes, 29-under-par. Clemson served as the host school for the event for the first time.
Clemson and Texas A&M both made amazing comebacks on Wednesday to get into the playoff for the final spot. The Tigers were in seventh-place entering the final round, seven shoots behind Northern Illinois, who was the fifth-place team at 23-under-par. Texas A&M was in eighth place at 12-under-par, 11 shots behind Northern Illinois.
Both Clemson and Texas A&M were still out of the top five entering the final three holes. But, Clemson played the last three holes at five-under-par as a team and Texas A&M played the last three at four-under to go ahead of Georgia Southern and San Diego State, who both finished at 28 under-par.
Sam Bennett, who gained national acclaim in April by finishing 16th at The Masters, made birdies on four of his last five holes, including a six-foot birdie putt on the 18th that got the Aggies into a tie with Clemson.
The NCAA playoff format put Clemson and Texas A&M players on holes 14-18 in five consecutive twosomes. Clemson senior Zack Gordon, who had shot 70 earlier in the day, made a 50-foot downhill eagle putt on the par five 16th to put Clemson in a commanding position. It would be the last shot of Gordon’s five-year Clemson career.
But, Maichon, who had just three eagles all year for Texas A&M, including one earlier in this tournament, then drained a a 50-foot uphill putt to match Gordon’s shot.
Clemson’s Andrew Swanson made a birdie on the 18th hole to beat Sam Bennett by a shot in their playoff matchup.
Results of the first four matches had the score between the two teams tied at two-under-par apiece. But, Sadagopan made par on the 14th hole and Clemson’s Kian Rose, who was Clemson’s best player on Wednesday with a 67 and made a birdie on the 18th hole in stroke play to get Clemson into the playoff, made bogey on 14 and Texas A&M had the playoff victory, 20 total strokes to 21.
“I am proud of my team, they represented Clemson well over the last three days,” said Head Coach Jordan Byrd. “We are a young team and we will grow from this experience.” Clemson loses only senior Zack Gordon from the five players who were in the Clemson lineup at the regional.
“We showed a lot of grit to come back and force a playoff on the last round. This is really difficult to accept right now (one shot from making the national tournament), but this experience will make us better. We have a lot to be proud of.”
Rose was Clemson’s best player for the regional with a 205 score, to set a Clemson record for low 54 hole score in an NCAA Regional. The native of South Africa had rounds of 68-70-67 in recording his 11-under-par score that was good enough for eighth place in the field of 75 golfers. He led the Tigers in under-par holes for the tournament with 20, tie for the most in a 54-hole tournament in school history.
Sophomore Andrew Swanson, who finished the season with a team best 71.39 stroke average, finished in 23rd place with a 210 total after round of 67-65-78. His 65 in the second round tied the Clemson record for low gross score in an NCAA Regional.
Jonathan Nielsen had a final round 68 on Wednesday and finished with a four-under-par score of 212, good enough for 34th place. He finished the year with 19 rounds at par or better. second to Swanson’s 23.
Gordon was Clemson’s fourth best player at the tournament with an even-par 216 score after rounds of 72-74-70. He finishes his Clemson career with 31 rounds under par and 10 at even par. His 13 birdies at this event give him 398 for his career, tied for 11th in Clemson history with Matt Hendrix.
Freshman Thomas Higgins had a strong final round 70 on Wednesday and finished with a 220 score, four-over-par for the 54 holes.
NCAA Salem Regional
The Cliffs at Keowee Falls, Salem, SC
Par 72, 7126 yards
1. Georgia Tech 811, 2. Arkansas 819, 3. North Carolina 821, 4. New Mexico 822, 5. Clemson and Texas A&M 835, 7. San Diego State and Georgia Southern 836, 9. Northern Illinois 841, 10. Furman 852, 11. Middle Tennessee State 856, 12. Purdue 862, 13. Longwood 874, 14. Long Island University 876.
Note: Texas A&M won playoff for fifth and final spot in NCAA National Tournament by one shot over Clemson, 20-21.
8. Kian Rose 68-70-67/205; 23. Andrew Swanson 67-65-78/210; 34. Jonathan Nielsen 75-69-68/212; 52. Zack Gordon 72-74-70/216; 63. Thomas Higgins 75-75-70/220.