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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Southern Cal repeats at Southern Highlands Collegiate

   Southern California, No. 7 in the latest Golfstat rankings, closed with a solid 4-under 284 to cruise to a 10-shot victory over a big-time field in the Southern Highlands Collegiate, which concluded Wednesday at the Southern Highlands Golf Club in Las Vegas.
   The talented Trojans grabbed the tournament by the throat with an opening round of 10-under 278 over the 7,374-yard, par-72 Southern Highlands layout and never let go. They fell back a little with a 3-over 291 in the middle round before going back under par in the final round for an 11-under 863 total that gave them a second straight team title at Southern Highlands.
   No. 4 Oklahoma State, coming off a dominating performance in winning the Querencia Cabo Collegiate in Mexico, was the only other team to finish under par. The Cowboys matched par in the final round at 288 for a 1-under 863 total.
   No. 11 Texas Tech took third with a 1-under 287 in the final round for a 3-over 867 total and No. 10 Stanford and No. 33 Pepperdine were another six shots back of the Red Raiders in a tie for fourth at 9-over 873. The Cardinal posted a final-round 298 while the Waves carded a 294.
   No. 19 UNLV was another shot back in sixth at 874 after a final-round 874, No. 14 Oklahoma was one more stroke back at 875 in seventh after a final-round 875 and No. 5 Illinois was yet another shot back in eighth at 876 after a final-round 289. No. 2 Florida bounced back from a tough middle round of 303 with a final-round 289 to claim ninth at 20-over 884.
   The Trojans were led by Cheng Jin, a freshman from China, and Justin Suh, a sophomore from San Jose, Calif., both of whom finished in a group of four players tied for third in the individual standings at 5-under 211. Jin bookended a 1-over 73 in the middle round with 3-under 69s in the first and final rounds. Suh’s best round was a 4-under 68 in the middle round and he finished up with a 1-over 73.
   Sean Crocker, a junior from Westlake Village, Calif., finished tied for 12th at 2-under 214, Andrew Levitt, a redshirt senior from Ladera Ranch, Calif., finished tied for 29th at 5-over 221 and Rico Hoey, a senior from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., finished tied for 34th at 7-over 223. Crocker and Hoey contributed a 68 and a 71, respectively, to the Trojans solid opening round while Levitt saved his best for last, a 2-under 70 in the final round.
   Oklahoma’s Grant Hirschman, a junior from Collierville, Tenn., claimed the individual title in a playoff over California’s Collin Marikawa, a sophomore from La Canada Flintridge, Calif.
   Hirschman fired a final round of 4-under 68 to catch Marikawa at 6-under 210. Marikawa had set the pace with a sizzling 6-under 66 in the opening round. Hirschman’s approach on the first hole of the playoff, the par-5 18th, finished two feet from the hole for an easy birdie that gave him the title.
   Joining the Southern Cal tandem of Jin and Suh in the group tied for third at 211, a shot out of the top spot, were Arizona State’s Jared du Toit, a senior from Canada, who had a final-round 69, and
Texas Tech’s Ivan Ramirez, a sophomore from Colombia who closed with a pair of 68s after an opening-round 75.
   A number of individuals who were invited to a practice session for potential U.S. Walker Cup team members in December at Los Angeles Country Club were in the field, including Cal’s Marikawa and Southern Cal’s Crocker and Hoey. The Walker Cup Match will be played Sept. 9 and 10 at Los Angeles Country Club against a side from Great Britain & Ireland.
   Also among that group in the Southern Highlands field were Stanford’s Maverick McNealy, a senior from Portola Valley, Calif. who finished tied for 12th at 1-under 215, and the Illinois duo of Nick Hardy, a junior from Northbrook Ill. who finished tied for 10th at 3-under 213, and Dylan Meyer, a junior from Evansville, Ill. who finished tied for 25th at 4-over 220.
   McNealy, No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, opened with a 5-under 67 before falling back with rounds of 73 and 75.
   I reference the Golfstat rankings frequently when I round up the college tournaments for this blog. It took me a while to figure out the Golfstat roundup for an event. But I caught on as I started to check out a lot more college events when I expanded the blog in 2016 and Golfstat became an invaluable tool.
   I mention this because Golfstat’s founder, Mark Laesch, died Saturday at his home in Noblesville, Ind. at age 62 from ALS, a disease that has also claimed his father, his sister and his uncle.
   I would recommend you check out an inspirational Golfweek story on Laesch’s life and the remarkable final months of his life.
   Laesch figured out a way to make sense out of 15 to 20 teams of five players each, plus some added individuals, in a timely fashion. You get the team scores, the individual results, a breakdown of how each team’s players fared and a bunch of other statistics. If you’ve watched any of The Golf Channel’s coverage of the NCAA Championships, men’s and women’s, the last couple of years, you couldn’t help but be impressed by the high level of play.
   And you can trace the heightened interest in college golf right back to Laesch and Golfstat making it a lot easier to follow.

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