Next stop, Stillwater.
The NCAA regional tournaments wrapped up this week, and 30 teams have qualified for the NCAA Championship. Headlining the field will be the host team Oklahoma State, who qualified by winning the Columbus regional. Most of the top teams had no trouble qualifying, but there were some surprises and disappointments this week.
23 of the top 30 teams qualified
Winners: Oklahoma St, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Florida, Kansas, Texas
Big 12 and SEC will each have 7 teams represented at NCAAs
Georgia Tech (4), LSU (6), and California (9) all failed to qualify
Neither of the country’s top 2-ranked individuals, Justin Suh (USC) and Collin Morikawa (California), will be at the NCAA Championship
UCF, Augusta and Iowa State are the only unranked teams to qualify
Defending champion Braden Thornberry (Ole Miss) qualified individually
Five teams from each regional earned spots in the championship, and the top individual not on a qualifying team also received an invitation.
Raleigh Regional - Lonnie Poole Golf Course at NC State
Teams: Texas, Duke, NC State, Augusta, Arizona State
Individual: Pontus Nyholm (Campbell)
Lots to unpack here. First off, Doug Ghim is the man. I think Norman Xiong will be player of the year, but Ghim deserves serious consideration. He made 22 birdies over the three days on his way to a 3-stroke victory. Combined with Scottie Scheffler’s 4th place finish, Texas cruised to a 17-shot victory.
After Texas, 2nd through 7th place were decided by only 6 shots. Duke, NC State, Augusta and Arizona State ended up with the four qualifying spots while Georgia Tech and Middle Tennessee St. missed out. Augusta really impressed on the final day as they shot the second-lowest final round score and skyrocketed up the leaderboard. They were seeded 12th heading into this regional, the highest seed to advance to the NCAAs.
Georgia Tech (4) will be the highest seed to miss out on the NCAAs this year. In great position after two rounds, they were caught by a red hot Arizona State team on their final nine holes. ASU beat Ga. Tech by 5 shots on the back nine, with Chen An Yu birdieing the last to give ASU the 5th qualifying spot.
California (9) also missed getting out of the Raleigh regional, and they never really had a chance. Collin Morikawa (Cal) is one of the best players in the country but will not get a chance at the NCAA title.
Pontus Nyholm beat Hayden Buckley (Missouri) and Marcus Byrd (Mid. Tenn. St.) in a playoff for the individual spot. Buckley had a great season for Missouri but will unfortunately miss out on the national championship.
Kissimmee Regional - Reunion Resort
Teams: Florida, UCF, Vanderbilt, North Carolina, Kent State
Individual: George Cunningham (Arizona)
The Kissimmee Regional featured the least amount of drama, but it did feature one of only 3 unranked teams to qualify for the NCAAs. Playing about 45 mins from campus, the UCF Knights played extremely consistent golf and finished 2nd in the tournament. Vanderbilt played very meh but still got in, and mid-major Kent State qualified in the 5th position. They will bring the MACtion to the NCAAs for the second year in a row.
I’ll be honest, I am worried about Vanderbilt. I have been very high on them all year and they have fallen flat the last few events. Now, they shot -22 for 3 rounds at the Kissimmee Regional, but they still finished 3rd and were 20 shots behind Florida. The Commodores do have some good match play experience, so I am liking their odds should they get to that portion of the NCAAs. They are still one of the deepest teams in the country and that will play well at the NCAA Championship.
Andy Zhang and Chris Nido lead Florida to victory with a 1-2 finish. Zhang only made 2 bogies over the 54 holes while the freshman Nido put together a blistering final-round 63. Don’t sleep on the Gators in Stillwater. They only won 2 regular season events, but they were very strong fields and have been pretty impressive this spring.
College Station Regional - Traditions Golf Club
Teams: Texas A&M, Clemson, Baylor, UCLA, Kentucky
Individual: Braden Thornberry (Ole Miss)
I go back and forth on Texas A&M, but they are an elite college team. The Aggies lead from wire to wire on their home course this year and cruised to victory. Chandler Phillips won for the 4th time this year, and the Aggies won their 6th tournament as a team. They had not been in great form recently, but this win will give them tons of confidence going to Stillwater. Oh, and they are doing this without Cameron Champ, who has turned professional. Pretty amazing.
Kentucky completed a 13-shot comeback over the final round to knock Ole Miss out of the 5th spot. Chip McDaniel played the back nine -5 and holed out from 118 on the final hole to send the Wildcats to the NCAA tournament. Clutch does not even begin to describe that performance.
Speaking of Ole Miss, they played the final 2 holes a collective +6 and lost to Kentucky by 3 for the final qualifying spot. Defending NCAA individual champion Braden Thornberry did qualify individually for Ole Miss.
Clemson and Baylor also put together extremely solid performances this week. Clemson has played much better this spring and so has U.S. Amateur champion Doc Redman. Redman finished T2 this week and led the Tigers to a second-place finish.
Pacific Regional - The Reserve at Spanos Park
Teams: Kansas, Stanford, Iowa State, Alabama, Oregon
Individual: Charles Corner (Texas El Paso)
Kansas was seeded 8th heading into the Pacific regional but put on a great performance to hang on for the victory. I have questions about the Jayhawks’ depth, but that is why they play the tournament.
Iowa State was the big surprise in this regional as they were the 10 seed heading in. The Cyclones have shown some serious promise in the last couple tournaments after being right in the mix at the Big 12 Championships. Freshman Sam Vincent finished T7 at the Big 12s and led the team with a T5 finish this week.
Normon Xiong is wildly impressive. The sophomore won for the 4th time in his last 5 starts and played his final 4 holes -3 to win individually over Stanford’s Brandon Wu. Xiong has been turning heads since he got to the University of Oregon, and he is proving to be one of the best young players in the country.
Top seeded LSU and 4th seeded USC both failed to get through the Pacific regional. LSU was really far back heading into the final round and came up shot in 6th place. USC was never really in the fight and finished 15 strokes out of 5th. Justin Suh is currently ranked #1 in the Sagarin college rankings but will be yet another name to not qualify for the NCAAs.
Columbus Regional - Scarlet Course at The Ohio State University
Teams: Oklahoma State, Illinois, UNLV, Northwestern, Texas Tech
Individual: Kyle Mueller (Michigan)
This tournament was a snooze fest if you were looking for drama. The top 5 teams on paper did their job and qualified for the NCAAs. On a brute like the Scarlet Course, there is no faking it. You have to golf your ball.
Oklahoma State had gone two straight tournaments without a victory after winning their first six events of the spring. They will now head back home and play their home golf course for a national title. If that sounds ridiculous, it is because it is. Every other team will be behind the 8 ball as they head into OSU territory. Match play is the great equalizer, so we will see how the Cowboys do in a few weeks.
Illinois is back to doing Illinois things. Nick Hardy won the Big 10 tournament and continued his strong play this week. Dylan Meyer continues to impress as well. With the rest of the team seemingly playing their best golf of the season, the Illini might just have a fighting (pun intended) chance in Stillwater.
Really cool to see Kyle Mueller (Michigan) win the tournament and qualify as the individual. The Wolverines did not get a regional spot, so Mueller was completely on his own this week. He shot a final-round 66 and took the tournament outright. Mueller won twice this year and finished in the top 12 in 9 of his 10 stroke play events.
Shout out to Chicago’s Big 10 team as well! Northwestern has had a pretty mediocre year but put together 3 solid rounds to qualify 4th. Dylan Wu has had a great season for the Wildcats. They will join Illinois as the only two Big 10 teams in the NCAA field.
Norman Regional - Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club
Teams: Oklahoma, BYU, North Florida, Auburn, Arkansas
Individual: Josh McCarthy (Pepperdine)
The defending NCAA champion Oklahoma Sooners won on their home course to take the Norman regional. The Sooners are really hitting their stride as they add this victory to their impressive victory at the Big 12s. OU had 3 players in the top 11, and their other two players are Grant Hirschman and Brad Dalke. Dalke was a Walker Cupper and played in the Masters in 2017 while Hirschman tied for 1st at the Big 12s. Everyone talks about the depth of Oklahoma State, but Oklahoma might be as deep as anyone in the country.
BYU played extremely strong in the final round to jump up and tie for 2nd this week. The Cougars have played pretty well this spring but were not a lock to qualify.
Pepperdine will be seriously kicking themselves on the way home to Malibu. They played the final 3 holes of the event +5 and lost their spot in the NCAA Championship. The Waves have been great all season, and I fully expected them to qualify this week. Again, they are returning to Malibu, so it is hard to feel too bad for them.
A full NCAA Championship preview will be on the way in the next few weeks. There is so much talent in college golf right now that this year’s event is sure to have some serious fireworks. Getcha popcorn ready.