Clemson, S.C—Turk Pettit got up-and-down for par from 25 yards off the ninth green, his final hole of the day, then Oklahoma State golfer Bo Jin failed to make par on the 18th hole, his final hole just 15 minutes, giving Pettit the individual NCAA Championship on Monday at Grayhawk Golf Course in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Pettit is the second Clemson player in history to win the NCAA Championship and joins Charles Warren, who won the title in 1997 at Conway Farms in Chicago, Ill. Pettit finished with rounds of 68-67-68-70 for a 72-hole score of seven-under-par 273. It is the second lowest NCAA Tournament score in Clemson history, trailing only a 272 by Warren when he finished second at the 1998 NCAA Tournament in Albuquerque, NM.
It was just the second win of Pettit’s Clemson career and his first since winning the Irish Creek Invitational in Kannapolis, NC on April 8, 2018, his freshman year. The Clemson graduate finished his final season with seven top 10 finishes in his eight tournaments.
Pettit was by far Clemson’s best player of the four rounds, as the Tigers finished in a tie for 13th place with a score of 1156. No other Tiger finished in the top 60. Arizona State had the low score in the 72-hole stroke play qualifier at 1117. Oklahoma State, Pepperdine, Oklahoma, Illinois, Florida State, Vanderbilt and North Carolina advance to the eight-team match play tournament that will determine the national champion. The Tigers missed the cut for the eighth and final spot by 11 shots.
Jin had a two-shot lead over Pettit in the individual race entering Monday’s final round. The two battled the entire day, although the players were on opposite nines in the pairings.
A key hole was the 17th, the eighth hole of the day for Pettit, and the 17th for Jin. Pettit drove the green on the 318-yard hole and made a two-putt birdie to take the lead for the first time. Jin drove the hole later in the day, but made a three-putt par.
“I figured Turk was going to need to make a birdie coming down the stretch because I thought Jin would make a birdie on that hole late in his round,” said Head Coach Larry Penley, who walked the final nine holes with Pettit. “But Jin three-putted the hole.
“I wasn’t sure what to hit on 17,” said Pettit. “I saw a player lay up, but I didn’t want a 120-yard shot into that hole, so I just decided to bomb it.”
The two players were tied at seven under for most of the final nine of competition. Pettit came to the ninth, hole, his last hole of the day, and drove the ball into a sand trap on the right side, his only wayward drive of the day. His second shot landed short of the hole and rolled back to 25 yards off the green. But, as he had all week, Pettit hit a great chip and made a five-footer to finish at seven-under for the tournament and even par 70 for the day. At the time he was tied with Jin.
A few minutes later on the other side, Jin hit his tee shot on 18, near a trap, but in the rough. His second shot ended up just a couple of feet off the right front of the green. His chip finished eight feet short. He missed that putt and Pettit had the National Championship.
“To be honest I thought I might need a birdie over the last couple of holes, but in the end I didn’t,” said Pettit after the round.
“I never knew I had the lead or was tied for the lead until I finished. I am the type of player who doesn’t want to know. Coach (Larry) Penley was with me the last nine holes and he never told me. When you look at scoreboards you start thinking about winning and it takes your mind off your game. That’s the way I look at it.”
Penley was certainly proud of his senior in his final tournament as a Clemson Tiger. “Turk played great all week. He was so consistent in every area of the game. His ball flight on shots to the green were perfect for this course. You must have a high ball flight to be successful here and that is how he plays.
It was quite a comeback story for Pettit, who had his golf clubs stolen the week before the NCAA National Tournament his freshman year. A freshman All-American off his regular season, Pettit played so poorly at the 2018 national tournament that Penley pulled him from the Clemson lineup for his own benefit and confidence.
“He has had some ups and downs in his career, but he certainly finished on a high note and I am looking forward to watching him in the future on Sundays.”
Monday was Penley’s final day as Clemson head coach. He announced in January that this would be his last year. Jordan Byrd, his assistant the last 17 years will take over the program as head coach.
When asked for a final comment as he left the press area he said. “I know Jordan is going to do a great job. Support Jordan and he will do great things.”
Penley completes his career with a national championship in 2003, 10 ACC championships, seven NCAA Regional titles, nine ACC Coach of the Year honors, and an ACC record 83 tournament wins. He led the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament all 37 years there was a tournament in his 38 seasons at the helm, including 30 trips to the National Tournament. He finishes with 13 Top Ten seasons (second in school history for any coach) and 25 Top 20 seasons, more than any coach in any sport in school history.
In an interview with The Golf Channel after his National Championship victory, Pettit said of Penley, “He has meant everything to my career. He showed trust in me. He shows trust in all his players. That is what you want from a coach.”
2021 NCAA Men’s Golf Tournament
May 28-31, 2021
Grayhawk Golf Course, Scottsdale, Arizona
1. Arizona State 1117, 2. Oklahoma State 1120, 3. Pepperdine 1125, 4. Oklahoma 1130, 5. Illinois, 6. Florida State 1136, 7. Vanderbilt, 8. North Carolina 1145, 9. Louisville and Sam Houston 1152, 11. Arkansas and Texas Tech 1153, 13. Clemson and Wake Forest 1156, 15. Georgia Tech 1169.
1. Turk Pettit, 68-67-68-70/273; 61. Kyle Cottam 74-73-72-75/294; 65. Jacob Bridgeman 71-71-75-79/296; 65. Colby Patton 74-73-70-79/296; 75. William Nottingham 76-73-75-76/ 300.