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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Redman delivers in the clutch as Clemson takes team title in Puerto Rico Classic



   It can be really helpful to have the reigning U.S. Amateur champion in your lineup.
   Hearkening back to the kind of clutch play – let’s face it, you have to possess the clutch gene to win a U.S. Amateur – that won him the most prestigious title in amateur golf, Doc Redman, a sophomore from Raleigh, N.C., birdied his last two holes Tuesday to give Clemson, No. 16 in the latest Golfstat rankings, a one-shot victory over reigning national champion Oklahoma in a thrilling edition of the Puerto Rico Classic, which wrapped up Tuesday at the Rio Mar Country Club’s Ocean Course in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico.
   Redman’s fast finish helped the Tigers post an even-par 284 over the 6,716-yard, par-71 Ocean Course for a 2-over an 854 total that edged the Cowboys, who entered the Puerto Rico Classic ranked eighth, but moved up a spot to seventh in the last couple of days. Oklahoma, which opened with a sizzling 10-under 274, finished up with a 3-over 855 total.
   No. 42 Purdue was another two shots behind Oklahoma in third at 5-over 857 after a final-round 290. No. 10 Georgia Tech, which held a five-shot lead over Purdue going into the final round after opening with an 8-under 276 and adding a 2-over 286 in the second round, slipped to a 297 in the final round to finish fourth at 7-over 859, two shots behind Purdue.
   Alabama took the No. 1 ranking into the event and fell to fourth in the rankings after finishing fifth at 866, seven shots behind Purdue. I’ll mention the rankings often because they are a helpful snapshot of where everybody stands at that moment, but the Crimson Tide, ranked No. 1 or No. 4, are formidable.
   Alabama boasted the individual champion in Lee Hodges, a senior from Ardmore, Tenn. whose final round of 1-under 71 gave him a 7-under 206 total and a two-shot victory over Redman’s Clemson teammate Turk Petit, a freshman from Auburn, Ala. Alabama, led by Hodges, finished up with a solid 4-over 288 in the final round.
   Georgia, ranked 77th, finished sixth at 15-over 867, a shot behind Alabama. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Bulldogs move up in the rankings as the spring progresses. North Carolina State, ranked 32nd, finished seventh in the 15-team field, carding a final-round 300 for an 18-over 870 total, three shots behind Georgia.
   Petit was rock solid for Clemson in chasing Hodges home. He opened with a pair of 2-under 69s and added a final-round 70 to take runnerup honors in the individual chase at 5-under 208. Backing him up for the Tigers was Colby Patton, a freshman from Fountain Inn, S.C., who was part of a five-way tie for seventh at even-par 213.
   Patton’s father Chris won the 1989 U.S. Amateur at my favorite golf course, the historic East Course at Merion Golf Club in the Ardmore section of Haverford Township. Colby Patton matched par in the final round with a 72.
   The next Clemson player to win the U.S. Amateur, Redman, finished tied for 17th at 3-over 216. But after a pair of 73s, he saved his best for last, those two final birdies giving him a final round of 2-under 70.
   Bryson Nimmer, a junior from Bluffton, S.C., finished tied for 21st for the Tigers, a shot behind Redman in the group tied for 21st at 4-over 217. Rounding out the Clemson lineup was Kyle Cottam, a freshman from Knoxville, Tenn. who finished tied for 52nd at 226 after a final-round 75.
   Heading a group of three players tied for third at 4-under 209 was N.C. State’s Stephen Franken, a junior from Raleigh, N.C. who lit up the Ocean Course to the tune of a 9-under 62 in the opening round. There were a lot of low numbers yielded by a vulnerable Ocean Course in Sunday’s opening round, but 62 is 62. He fell back with rounds of 74 and 73.
   Also in that group tied for third at 209 was another Alabama player, Davis Riley, a junior from Hattiesburg, Miss. Riley was solid throughout with rounds of 68, 71 and 70. Rounding out the trio at 209 was Oklahoma’s Quade Cummins, a redshirt sophomore from Weatherford, Okla. Cummins was equally consistent, sandwiching a 2-under 69 in the middle round with a pair of 1-under 70s.
   Purdue’s Jason Hong, a freshman from Australia, carded a final-round 70 to finish alone in sixth at 1-under 212.
   Georgia Tech had three of its players in the group along with Clemson’s Patton tied for seventh at even-par 213. They were Noah Norton, a freshman from Chico, Calif., Tyler Strafaci, a sophomore from Devine, Fla., and Chris Petefish, a senior from Danville, Calif. Strafaci had a final-round 73 and Norton and Petefish checked in with a 74 and a 75, respectively.
   Rounding out the quintet at even-par 213 was Georgia’s Trevor Phillips, a sophomore from Spartanburg, S.C. Phillips finished up with a 3-over 74.



Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Brooks claims individual title, leads Florida to team crown in Allstate Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate



   Sierra Brooks made it quite clear that she’s back in a big way by cruising to a four-shot victory in the Allstate Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate in New Orleans Tuesday and that means that Florida, despite the loss of four players from last year’s Southeastern Conference championship team, won’t skip a beat this season.
   Brooks, a sophomore from Orlando, Fla., added a 1-under-par 71 over the 6,239-yard, par-72 English Turn Golf & Country Club layout to the pair of 69s to shot in the first two rounds for a 7-under 209 total. She led the Gators, No. 14 in the latest Golfstat rankings, to the best round of the day, a 1-over 289, as they eased to a nine-shot victory over No. 12 Southern California.
   Reigning Big Ten champion Michigan State, ranked 11th, was another six shots behind Southern Cal in third at 24-over 888 after a final round of 12-over 300. No. 35 North Carolina State carded a 301 to take fourth, five shots behind Michigan State at 29-over 893. No. 59 Southern Methodist, behind a solid 9-over 297 in the final round, grabbed fifth at 31-over 895, two shots behind N.C. State.
   It was a bit of a disappointing final round for No. 40 North Carolina, which had its worst round of the tournament, an 18-over 306, to fall into a tie for sixth with No. 66 LSU at 33-over 897. LSU had the second-best round of the day, a 7-over 295.
   No. 10 Oklahoma State finished alone in the eighth with a solid 296 in the final round, giving it a 34-over 898 total. The Cowgirls lost one of their top players during the midseason break when Maddie McCrary, a senior from Wylie, Texas, turned pro.
   Brooks was the runnerup in the 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur at Portland Country Club and a prized recruit for Wake Forest last season. But an injury kept her out of action last spring and, after briefly considering turning pro, Brooks decided her game needed more seasoning and transferred closer to home.
   She had committed to the Gators at a very young age, like eighth- or ninth-grade. Maybe it’s where she belonged all along.
   Florida was one of the eight teams still standing when it came time for match play in the NCAA Championship at Rich Harvest Farms last spring. But four players who were in the lineup most of the time, Maria Torres, Kelly Grassel, Karolina Vickova and Samantha Wagner, are either already on the LPGA Tour, in the case of Torres, or working their way toward that goal.
   Florida coach Emily Glaser entered Elin Esborn, a redshirt freshman from Sweden, in the Allstate Sugar Bowl as an individual and Esborn responded by finishing tied for fourth in the individual chase at 2-under 214. Esborn sandwiched an even-par 72 in the middle round with a pair of 1-under 71s. But her scores didn’t even count toward the impressive team victory.
   Marta Perez, a sophomore from Spain, bounced back from a 78 in the middle round with her second 2-under 70 of the tournament to finish tied for sixth at 2-over 218. Taylor Tomlinson, a battle-tested senior from Gainesville, Fla., finished tied for 11th at 6-over 222, even though her final-round 75 wasn’t even a counter for the Gators.
   That’s because Carlotta Ricolfi, a sophomore from Italy, and Addie Baggarty, a freshman from Jonesborough, Tenn., each bounced back from tough middle rounds to card a 2-over 74 Tuesday. That left both of them in the group tied for 32nd at 11-over 227.
   Southern Cal was led by one of the many talented freshmen populating Division I women’s golf this season as Jennifer Chang of Cary, N.C. finished tied for second at 3-under 213, four shots behind Brooks. Chang, who got into contention with a 3-under 69 in Monday’s second round, finished up with a 2-over 74.
   She was joined at 3-under 213 by Michigan State’s Allyson Geer, a sophomore from Brighton, Mich. who also carded a 2-over 74 in Tuesday’s final round.
   Chang’s teammate, Alisen Corpuz, a sophomore from Honolulu, Hawaii, shared fourth place with Florida’s Esborn at 2-under 214. On a day in which there wasn’t a single sub-70 round, Corpuz matched Florida’s Perez and Michigan State’s Sarah Burnham for the low round of the day with a 2-under 70.
   Joining Perez in the tie for sixth at 2-over 218 was yet another Southern Cal youngster, Alyaa Abdulghany, a freshman from Newport Beach, Calif. Abdulghany finished up with a solid 1-over 73.
Southern Cal also lost a key piece to the pro ranks since November when Robynn Ree, a junior from Redondo Beach, Calif., finished tied for fifth in the LPGA Qualifying School’s final stage. But with two freshmen and a sophomore among the top six at English Turn, it appears the Trojans have turned the page.
   Michigan State’s Burnham, a senior from Maple Grove, Minn., bounced back from a tough 79 in the second round with that 2-under 70 to finish in a tie for eighth at 3-over 219.
   Burnham was joined at that figure by UCF’s Kaeli Jones, a senior from Sumterville, Fla. who posted a 75 in the final round, and N.C. State’s Cecily Overbey, a senior from High Point, N.C. who also finished up with a 75.
   In an otherwise tough day for North Carolina, a bright spot was certainly the play of Kelly Whaley, a junior from Farmington, Conn. Whaley matched par with a 72 and was the Tar Heels’ medalist for the week, finishing tied for 11th at 6-over 222.
   Sophomore Brynn Walker, the two-time PIAA Class AAA champion at Radnor, had a final-round 77, but snuck into the top 20, finishing tied for 20th at 224.
   Ava Bergner, a freshman from Germany, struggled home with an 80, but still finished tied for 22nd, a shot behind Walker at 225. Bryana Nguyen, a senior from Columbia, Md., carded a 77 to finish tied for 28th at 226. Mariana Ocano, a sophomore from St. Petersburg, Fla., posted an 82 and finished 79th at 241.
  It was the opener for the Tar Heels while 1-2 finishers Florida and Southern Cal, for instance, were coming off appearances in one of the toughest fields of the season at the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge, in which the Gators finished seventh and the Trojans 10th. Michigan State already had a runnerup finish against a tough field in the Florida State Match Up under its belt.





Monday, February 19, 2018

Brooks keeps Florida in top spot after two rounds of Allstate Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate



   The golf course played a little tougher and things tightened up after two rounds of the Allstate Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate Monday, but reigning Southeastern Conference champion Florida, No. 14 in the latest Golfstat rankings, held onto a one-shot edge.
   Led by individual leader Sierra Brooks, a sophomore from Orlando, Fla., the Gators struggled a little, posting a 13-over 301 at English Turn Golf & Country Club in New Orleans, but retained the lead with an 8-over 584 total. Dangerous Southern California, ranked 12th, had the best round of the day, a 4-over 292 to move into second place, just a shot behind the Gators at 9-over 585.
   Florida and Southern Cal are the only two teams in the competitive 17-team field that were among the final eight teams left standing for match play in the NCAA Championship last spring at Rich Harvest Farms.
   Reigning Big Ten champion Michigan State, ranked 11th, struggled to a 16-over 304, but is still very much in the hunt for the team title in third place at 12-over 588.
   The state of North Carolina holds down the next two spots in the team standings as sophomore Brynn Walker, a two-time PIAA Class AAA champion at Radnor, and No. 40 North Carolina are in fourth place, three shots behind Michigan State at 15-over 591 and No. 35 North Carolina State is another shot behind the Tar Heels in fifth at 16-over 592.
   The Tar Heels and the Wolfpack were the only other teams beside Southern Cal to break 300 as the wind picked up and made for challenging conditions over the 6,239-yard, par-72 English Turn layout, North Carolina carding a 299 and N.C. State coming in a stroke better at 298.
   No. 25 Miami and No. 59 Southern Methodist are tied for sixth at 22-over 598, the Hurricanes posting a 303 and the Mustangs firing a 302.
   Brooks, the runnerup at the 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur and a member of the 2016 U.S. Curtis Cup team, fired a second consecutive 69 to grab a one-shot lead in the individual chase at 6-under 138. After an injury-plagued year at Wake Forest, Brooks transferred to Florida and has quickly established herself as the Gators’ top player since becoming eligible for the spring portion of the season. 
   Unfortunately for Florida, its next highest player in the individual standings, Elin Esborn, a redshirt freshman from Sweden who is alone in fourth place at 1-under 143, five shots behind Brooks, is competing as an individual, so her scores aren’t part of the team scoring. She’s making a pretty strong case to be included among the starting five for Florida’s next tournament, though.
   Esborn added an even-par 72 to her opening round of 1-under 71.
   Taylor Tomlinson, a senior from Gainesville, Fla., is tied for 12th at 3-over 147 after carding a 76, and Martz Perez, a sophomore from Spain, is tied for 16th at 4-over 148 after posting a 78. Tomlinson and Perez were both in the lineup when the Gators stormed to the SEC title last spring.
   Carlotta Ricolfi, a sophomore from Italy, and Addie Baggarty, a freshman from Jonesborough, Tenn., are in a group tied for 42nd at 153. Ricolfi carded a 78 and was the Gators’ final counter while Baggarty, who had opened with a solid 73, struggled a little with an 80.
   Michigan State’s Allyson Geer, a sophomore from Brighton, Mich., matched par with a 72 after opening with a 5-under 67 to gain a share of second place, a shot behind Brooks at 5-under 139.
There are a ton of talented freshmen around the country and Southern Cal’s Jennifer Chang of Cary, N.C. is one of them. Chang matched Brooks for the low round of the day, a 3-under 69, after opening with a 70 and is tied with Geer at 5-under.
   Three players are tied for fifth at even-par 144, a shot behind Florida’s individual entrant Esborn.
UCF’s Kaeli Jones, a senior from Sumterville, Fla., had opened up Sunday with a scintillating 66, but fell back with a 78 to get into the tie for fifth at 144. She was joined there by Southern Cal’s Alisen Corpuz, a sophomore from Honolulu, Hawaii who posted a 74, and N.C. State’s Cecily Overbey, a senior from High Point, N.C. who added a 75 to her opening-round 69.
   North Carolina might be ranked 40th, but its ninth-place finish in the stroke-play portion of the NCAA Championship – which left the Tar Heels one frustrating shot out of the match-play bracket at Rich Harvest Farm – says it was a top-10 program a year ago.
   Speaking of talented freshmen, North Carolina was led by its precocious rookie, Ava Bergner of Germany, who added a 73 to her opening-round 72 and is tied for eighth at 1-over 145.
   Walker, whose team successes are just as impressive as the two state titles she won at Radnor, added a 75 to her opening-round 72 and is tied for 12th at 3-over 147. Walker has been in the starting five for North Carolina for every tournament the Tar Heels have played in the her still young collegiate career.
   Two other veterans of the Tar Heels’ run to the brink of match play in the NCAA Championship alongside Walker, Bryana Nguyen, a senior from Columbia, Md., and Kelly Whaley, a junior from Farmington, Conn., are also playing solid golf at English Turn.
   Nguyen is tied for 19th at 5-over 149 after a 76 Monday and Whaley is tied for 26th at 150 after a second consecutive 75.
   Rounding out the North Carolina lineup is Mariana Ocano, a sophomore from St. Petersburg, Fla. who is tied for 73rd at 159 after carding a 79.