COLUMBUS, Ohio – For the 12th time in program history, the Texas Tech men’s golf team has earned a berth in the NCAA Championships, finishing in the top five at the Columbus Regional on Wednesday.
Tech (+18) fought through rainy conditions and remained steady all day from the jump, tying for the low round of the day, a 1-over 285. The Red Raiders were never really threatened with falling out of the top five, despite starting the day only three shots clear of sixth place. Tech finished in fifth, seven shots better than sixth-place Penn State, two shots back of fourth and three shots back of third.
This marks the third time in the last six years the Red Raiders have advanced to nationals, and the eighth time overall under head coach Greg Sands. The Red Raiders are now 2-for-2 all-time advancing out of regionals held in Columbus, as they recorded a fifth-place finish in 2013 as well. Tech also competed in Columbus for the 1956 and 2002 NCAA Championships.
“This may be the most resilient team I’ve coached in 17 years,” Sands said. “They showed up big today. I had a good feeling after yesterday’s round and I saw a lot of things I really liked. It was such a relief to see them have a round like this, knowing what this tournament can do to top seeds. It’s the worst week of the year for college coaches. You can have a great year, but you have to come out here and be on for three days, or else you go home.”
Once again, Hurly Long and Adam Blomme led the charge as they have all week, both finishing in the individual top 10. After going 1-over on the first nine of the day, Long battled back with two birdies on the final nine to close at even par. Finishing tied for fourth overall at -2, he was one of just three players in the entire regional to not record an over-par round (70-70-71).
Blomme carded a 2-under 69, with his only blemish of the day coming on the 470-yard, par-4 second. He birdied the par-4 first, the par-5 sixth and the par-3 13, making some tough putts along the way. Blomme (-1) joined Long in the top 10, tying for 7th in his first taste of the NCAA postseason.
“It’s so big to have three guys play well,” Sands said. “If Freddy is his normal self, we probably would have had the low round of the day. All season we’ve played well in the final round, which is a great thing. You love to have guys who can finish.”
However, possibly the biggest round of the day came from Sandy Scott, who rebounded from a bogey on his opening hole to fire a 1-under 70. After going a combined 15-over in the first 27 holes of the tournament, Scott went -2 in the final 27 holes. His 40-footer for birdie on eight came at a time when then-sixth place Michigan State had crept within five shots of the Red Raiders.
“[Sandy] and I had a pretty direct conversation at the hotel this week and he took it extremely well,” Sands said. “I was able to walk with him these last two rounds, and we really found something on the second nine yesterday. He started hitting the fat side of the greens and letting the putter do the work. It’s not fun to be 30 or 40 feet from the hole all day, but when the pins were tucked like they are out here that’s the way to play it.”
Fredrik Nilehn shot a 4-over 75 and Ivan Ramirez carded a 7-over 78 to round out the team scoring. Nilehn went 78-73-75 in his first action in more than a month. The Big 12 Player of the Year will now have a week and a half to get more practice in before nationals.
Joining the Red Raiders in advancing out of this regional were No. 1 seed Oklahoma State, No. 2 seed Illinois, No. 4 seed UNLV and No. 6 seed Northwestern.
The NCAA Championships will be held May 25-30, at Karsten Creek, in Stillwater, Okla. The tournament will feature 72 holes of team stroke play, with the field getting cut to the top 15 teams after 54 holes. From there, The top eight teams after 72 holes will enter into a match play tournament, seeded by stroke play finish.