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NCAA men’s regionals: High drama as top seed, four No. 2 seeds fail to advance

No. 2 regional seeds have had some luck of late in the NCAA Championship.

Each of the past three national team champions on the men’s side – Pepperdine (2021), Texas (2022) and Florida (2023) – were No. 2 at their respective NCAA regionals. Strangely enough, those three teams also finished fourth at regionals.

That trend bodes well for Arizona this year, as the Wildcats, the second seed at the West Lafayette Regional, finished fourth to punch their ticket to Omni La Costa.

But it wasn’t all roses for the No. 2 seeds on Wednesday. In fact, for four of the six, it was a downright nightmare. Washington, Ole Miss, Arkansas and Alabama all saw their seasons end, contributing to a chaotic final day that saw No. 1 seed Arizona State become just the fifth top seed in regional history to fall short of nationals.

Plus, there was a playoff in Austin, Texas; a costly bogey in Chapel Hill, North Carolina; and four total regionals that saw two or fewer shots separate the last team in and the first team out.

Here is everything you need to know from the final day of NCAA D-I men’s golf regionals, including the top story from each of the six sites:


Chapel Hill Regional

UNC Finley GC, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Par 70

Advancing teams: 1. Clemson (-25), 2. East Tennessee State (-24), 3. North Carolina (-20), 4. Georgia Tech, 5. Baylor (-15)

Eliminated: 6. Alabama (-14), 7. Long Beach State (-13), 8. VCU (-9), 9. Loyola Marymount (-3), 10. Michigan State (+9), 10. Ball State (+9), 12. Northwestern (+14), 13. Howard (+48)

Individual champion: Austin Greaser, North Carolina (-13)

Advancing individual: Nick Mathews, N.C. State (T-2, -12)

The story: When it comes to regional drama, Baylor head coach Mike McGraw would’ve rather seen a player birdie the last to send his team through to the NCAA Championship. But that’s not what happened Wednesday at Finley Golf Course.

“It was just unfortunate,” McGraw said.

Not for McGraw’s Bears, but for McGraw’s former team, Alabama, where he served as an assistant in 2013-14 between head jobs at Oklahoma State and now Baylor. Crimson Tide senior Canon Claycomb, fighting like hell to extend his five-year college career, was 4 under on his round when he found the green in regulation at the par-4 18th hole.

Claycomb needed three putts, though, and his closing bogey proved the difference as Alabama finished 54 holes at 14 under, a shot back of Baylor, which nabbed the final ticket to Omni La Costa despite the Bears carding a couple bogeys on their last hole, the par-4 ninth.

“He’s a great kid,” Alabama head coach Jay Seawell said of Claycomb, “who kept us going when no one thought we could be a good team after Nick [Dunlap] left [after winning a PGA Tour event in January].”

For McGraw, his Bears have long been buoyed by senior Johnny Keefer, who tied for second, a shot back of North Carolina’s Austin Greaser, to notch his fifth top-8 finish of the season. But even Keefer contributed to some slow starts to begin the spring. Baylor found itself down by at least 17 shots after first rounds at The Prestige, Cabo Collegiate and All-American Intercollegiate. The Bears’ finishes in those events, respectively: 18th, 10th, eighth.

“When you start that far back, you’re just up against it,” McGraw said. “We just told the guys we’re much better than that, and they knew it. … But for the fourth consecutive tournament now, we didn’t blow ourselves out of it the first round.”

This week’s regional success followed a fourth-place finish at the Big 12s and win at the Aggie Invitational. Not that it wasn’t close. It was a strange three days because of weather – teams played as many holes as possible on Monday, some even finishing two rounds; and barely any golf was played Tuesday before the competition wrapped up early on Wednesday. Baylor was just five shots off the lead after 18 holes, though could never breathe; entering the final day tied with Georgia Tech for fifth with Long Beach State just a stroke behind. And then Alabama came charging.

McGraw, whose Bears will play a second straight NCAA Championship, sixth in eight years, beginning next Friday, believes there’s something to teams gleaning momentum from adversity. He then pointed to the top of the leaderboard.

“Clemson barely got in and they were ranked in the 50s, but they got in,” McGraw said. “And the enthusiasm of getting in, they just carried that over into a regional championship. Maybe there is an advantage because you fought hard, and you got through and you take something out of that. It’s not a gimme anymore. You have to go earn it, and we did that.”

Chip shots: It’s safe to say Clemson didn’t expect this. The Tigers were a No. 10 seed after finishing the regular season ranked No. 59 in the country. At 76-76-1 overall, they also narrowly avoided not qualifying for regionals because of the .500 rule. But freshman Calahan Keever birdied his last hole to tie for fifth individually while pushing Clemson a shot clear of runner-up East Tennessee State. The Tigers are the worst seed to win a regional since the format moved to six sites in 2009; South Carolina was the last double-digit seed to win a regional, doing so as a No. 11 seed in 2007. ... East Tennessee State had its big three of Mats Ege (T-12), Algot Kleen (T-8) and Matthew Dodd-Berry (T-14) all crack the top 15, and the Bucs will head to a fourth straight NCAA Championship. … North Carolina fifth-year senior Austin Greaser drained a long birdie putt on his closing hole to win his second career NCAA regional title. The Tar Heels now head to nationals for a seventh straight year. … Georgia Tech would’ve lost a tiebreaker to Long Beach State had the tournament been forced to go off 36-hole scores, but the Yellow Jackets closed in 7 under behind 4-under 66s from Christo Lamprecht and Bartley Forrester. … Alabama is the 14th No. 2 seed to not advance since 2009.


Baton Rouge Regional

The University Club, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Par 72

Advancing teams: 1. Auburn (-21), 2. Virginia (-13), 3. Texas Tech (-8), 4. Ohio State (E), 5. LSU (+4)

Eliminated: 6. Houston (+6), 7. Duke (+9), 8. South Carolina (+11), 9. Oregon (+19), 10. Louisville (+21), 11. Lipscomb (+24), 12. Yale (+55), 13. Loyola Maryland (+65), 14. Arkansas-Pine Bluff (+112)

Individual champion: Baard Skogen, Texas Tech (-8)

Advancing individual: Ethan Evans, Duke (T-2, -6)

The story: It’s been a difficult season for LSU. Though the Tigers have won three times, the victories hardly came against elite fields, and just a few weeks ago at the SEC Championship, LSU beat just one team. Add in a mid-October retirement by longtime head coach Chuck Winstead, who abruptly stepped down to focus on his “health and wellness,” a coaching search that drags on and some established players who have lost their games, and it’s not been the type of environment that usually fosters winning teams.

“It’s been a year of challenges,” said interim head coach Andrew Nelson.

All that said, the Tigers will play for a national championship for the first time since 2019.

LSU, ranked No. 40 in the country and the No. 7 seed at their own Baton Rouge Regional, sat 10th after one round at the University Club and a shot back of fifth through 36 holes. But the Tigers played inspired on Wednesday, shooting 4 under to grab the final NCAA Championship berth by two shots over Houston.

Alex Price, a transfer from D-III Christopher Newport prior to this season, was originally supposed to be the sixth man this week. But thrust into action at the eleventh hour when senior Drew Doyle voluntarily gave up his lineup spot after the practice round, Price tied for 29th and led the team with a final-round 69. Connor Gaunt added a 70 to cap his T-5 finish.

“I’ve played him every tournament because I just believed that we were going to get a lot out of him, and it just never really clicked,” Nelson said of Price. “But last night, I texted him, like, ‘Man, I’ve watched you play qualifiers, I’ve watched you shoot some of our lowest rounds of the year, it’s coming. Just stay positive.’ And to see him shoot 69 today, it was huge. Huge. Couldn’t have come at a better time.”

Even with his future in Baton Rouge uncertain, Nelson is looking forward to taking these Tigers, who were counted out by many in the fall and many more after conference, out west as true underdogs.

“There are low expectations for us,” Nelson said, “but we have the idea that we’re going to go out there and compete, and we’ll see where that takes us.”

Chip shots: Auburn, the top overall seed, shot 20 under in the final round to win a second straight regional title. The Tigers, headed to nationals for the sixth straight year, had four players shoot 68 or better on the last day, including Brendan Valdes, who fired a 66 to tie for second. Freshman Jackson Koivun was T-5, his ninth straight finish of fifth or better. … Virginia, which advanced to the quarterfinals last spring at Grayhawk, comfortably got through behind top-10s from Bryan Lee and Ben James. James’ T-9 marked his 10th top-16 finish in as many starts this season. … Texas Tech senior Baard Skogen missed an entire semester two falls ago with a back injury and hadn’t had a top-10 since April 2023. But Skogen, now 100% healthy according to head coach Greg Sands, closed in 66 Wednesday to win the individual title by two shots. … Behind a T-9 finish from Masters low amateur Neal Shipley and final-round 69s from Jackson Chandler and Maxwell Moldovan, No. 6 seed Ohio State heads to the NCAA Championship for a third straight year. … Duke, the No. 5 seed, has now missed at regionals in three of the past four years. … No. 4 seed Oregon’s season is over before nationals for the third time in the last five years. … No. 10 seed South Carolina finished seven shots back of fifth, though Nathan Franks was a bright spot; Franks, in his first start since fracturing his right elbow in a team van crash in mid-March, birdied eight of his first 15 holes Wednesday, closed with a 66 and tied for 12th.


West Lafayette Regional

Birck Boilermaker Golf Complex (Kampen), West Lafayette, Indiana, Par 72

Advancing teams: 1. Vanderbilt (-24), 2. Purdue (-11), 3. Florida (-4), 4. Arizona (-3), 5. New Mexico (-2)

Eliminated: 6. San Diego State (+8), 7. Mississippi State (+9), 8. Indiana (+10), 9. Southern Illinois (+11), 10. Colorado State (+14), 11. Stetson (+15), 12. College of Charleston (+22), 13. Tennessee Tech (+43)

Individual champion: William Moll, Vanderbilt (-7)

Advancing individual: Cameron Huss, Wisconsin (T-4, -5; won five-hole playoff)

The story: Emerging from the cloud of chalk (all top five seeds cruised through) was top-seeded Vanderbilt, the second-ranked team in the country.

The Commodores, now winners for a seventh time this season, dominated for its third regional title in four years. All five players finished T-14 or better, including co-runner-up Gordon Sargent and individual medalist William Moll, the fifth-year senior who hadn’t won a college event since the Frederica Cup in Fall 2022. And on a tough golf course where the top-five cut fell at just 2 under, Vanderbilt made it look easy, shooting at least 5 under each round and carding just three scores worse than bogey, a focus for a team that had gotten a little sloppy this spring.

“We’re very excited for NCAAs,” Moll said.

This Vanderbilt squad, which will try and qualify for match play for the seventh time in nine seasons next week at Omni La Costa, will tell you it isn’t paying attention to the expectations. The Commodores know its NCAA title or bust, especially with Moll and two other seniors (Cole Sherwood and Matthew Riedel) about to end their college careers – that trio all grew up in Texas, Moll and Riedel attending the same middle school and sharing a home course in Houston, and Moll and Sherwood frequently sharing hotel rooms and meals during their time traveling the Texas Legends Junior Tour with their families. They also know what last year felt like, to slip from inside the number to T-11 on the final day at Grayhawk.

“It stung for a long time, probably until about the end of the summer,” Moll said. “We don’t talk about it too much, though.”

A similar collapse is unlikely when you consider that Moll, at No. 25 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, is the worst-ranked player in Scott Limbaugh’s starting five. Though when it comes to lifting the program’s first national crown, Auburn might have something to say about it; the Tigers are 3-0 against Vanderbilt this season, 2-0 in stroke play and winners over the Commodores in the final of the SEC Championship.

“There are a lot of good teams out there,” Moll said. “The biggest motivator for all of us is we want to beat everyone we play.”

Chip shots: With 90 regionals now being played since 2009, this was just the 10th instance in which the top five seeds all got through a regional. … Purdue, the No. 5 seed, gets through for the first time since the West Lafayette Regional in 2017. … And speaking of that regional, that was the last time, until today, that a top seed failed to advance; Florida head coach J.C. Deacon called that final round in 2017 “the most disappointing day” he’d had on the golf course. This time around wasn’t great, as just one Gator notched a top-10 (Parker Bell, T-8), but Florida at least comfortably advanced to defend its national title from a season ago. … New Mexico is through to nationals for a second straight year – and the Lobos do it this year under first-year head coach Jake Harrington, who came over from Little Rock to replace longtime coach Glen Millican, who took the Missouri job last summer.


Austin Regional

University of Texas GC, Austin, Texas, Par 71

Advancing teams: 1. Texas (-27), 2. Tennessee (-11), 3. Notre Dame (-6), 4. Utah (-2), 5. Wake Forest (+2; won playoff)

Eliminated: 6. BYU (+2; lost playoff), 7. Georgia (+11), 7. UNCG (+11), 9. Arkansas State (+17), 10. Arkansas (+20), 11. Kansas City (+28), 12. San Jose State (+34), 13. Grand Canyon (+40)

Individual champion: Christiaan Maas, Texas (-9)

Advancing individual: Kelvin Hernandez, UNCG (T-3, -6)

The story: Wake Forest has developed a habit for close calls.

For the second straight year, the Demon Deacons had to rally just to get their winning percentage over .500 and be eligible for NCAA regionals. This year, Wake closed with a third at the Calusa Cup and runner-up in stroke play at the ACC Championship to finish eight wins above water.

On Wednesday at UT Golf Club, the Deacs’ flirted with elimination once again. Wake’s four counters shot a combined 7 over on their final nine, the front nine, to kill its early momentum. They still climbed a spot on the leaderboard over the final 18 holes, but the late slip left the Deacs tied with BYU at 2 over.

The two teams then played off, with Wake posting a 5-count-5 score of 1 under, which included a birdie from Marshall Meisel and four pars, to advance to its fourth NCAA Championship in the past five seasons.

“We got off to a fantastic start today and everybody was hanging in there,” Wake Forest head coach Jerry Haas said. “The wind picked up a little bit on the front side, however we missed a few putts we normally would make. We had a great birdie by Marshall in the playoffs and good saves by Scotty Kennon, Collin Adams and Tom Harber for making good putts for par.

“Everybody is now even par starting the week. We just needed to get through and give ourselves a chance. I have been doing this a long time and this is one of the most satisfying regionals I’ve been to in the fact that we had a great spring just to get this far and seem to be peaking at the right time.”

Chip shots: After winning its first Big 12 title since 2017, Texas now heads to a 17th straight NCAA Championship, an active NCAA record. Sophomore Christiaan Maas won his first college tournament while transfers Nathan Petronzio (second) and Brian Stark (T-3) joined Maas and sophomore Tommy Morrison (seventh) in the top 10. “We’ve got some serious momentum,” Texas head coach John Fields said. … Behind top-10s from Bryce Lewis and Lance Simpson, Tennessee snapped a streak of two straight years not making it through regionals. … Notre Dame advances to its first NCAA Championship since 1966 – and first in the NCAA regional era. … Utah shook off a poor close to its first nine to shoot 3 under coming in and finish four shots clear of the playoff. The Utes are now heading to a second NCAA Championship in three years. … Arkansas was among the No. 2 seeds that saw their seasons end on Wednesday. … Georgia, the No. 4 seed, was eliminated at regionals for the first time since 2018.


Stanford Regional

Stanford GC, Stanford, California, Par 70

Advancing teams: 1. Illinois (-36), 2. Florida State (-28), 3. Texas A&M (-19), 4. SMU (-10), 4. Stanford (-10)

Eliminated: 6. Ole Miss (-9), 7. UCLA (-5), 8. Augusta (+1), 9. UNLV (+7), 10. Missouri (+8), 11. Liberty (+13), 12. Fresno State (+18), 13. Sacramento State (+22), 14. Siena (+34)

Individual champion: Max Herendeen, Illinois (-13)

Advancing individual: Ben Warian, Minnesota (T-2, -11)

The story: With the dust finally settled, Stanford head coach Conrad Ray sat in his office, asking himself, What just happened?

In the end, his fifth-seeded Cardinal survived at home to advance out of regionals and to the NCAA Championship for the ninth time in the last decade. But the emotions of how they did it ran the gamut.

“It was a little bit of everything,” Ray said. “We obviously didn’t play that great yesterday. Good start, crappy day yesterday, decent today, but clutch at the end. It was like a roller coaster.”

Outside the cut line with just a few holes left, Stanford leaned on its stars. Michael Thorbjornsen was as flawless as it gets, firing a bogey-free, 6-under 64 that included a final birdie at the par-5 seventh, the Card’s third-to-last hole of the day. “Ice in his veins, total clinic,” said Ray, who walked the whole round with his first-team All-American, who missed the entire fall with a stress fracture in his back and minor ankle surgery. “I think he may have missed one shot.”

Then it was fifth-year senior Barclay Brown, without a top-20 finish all season as he’s fought the driver demons. Brown closed in 69 with a birdie at the last to notch a T-18 finish.

And finally, Karl Vilips, who made just six pars the whole round – and only two on his last nine holes. Vilips chipped in for birdie at No. 7 and then stuck his approach at the par-4 ninth to 2 feet and made the birdie putt.

Stanford’s T-4 finish with SMU came a shot clear of Ole Miss, which five years ago also finished sixth by a single shot at Stanford Golf Course. That year, the Rebels had a player hit a bird and make a ‘9’ on No. 7 in the final round. This time around, with star player Michael La Sasso still recovering from a nasty stomach virus that knocked him out of the first round of SECs and down 12 pounds, Ole Miss got off to a 7-over start through five holes and couldn’t fully bounce back. Two Rebels, Cameron Tankersley and Tom Fischer, notched top-10s, but La Sasso finished solo 62nd and all but Tankersley shot over par in the final round. Ole Miss has qualified for only two NCAA Championships in the match-play era (2009).

“We struggled at times this season getting off to poor starts ... and it kind of jumped up and bit us today,” Ole Miss head coach Chris Malloy said. “Ultimately, the teams around us made a few more birdies in the clutch, and we were not able to do that.

“It stings right now, for sure.”

Stanford, meanwhile, has finished fourth or better in five of its last six starts. The return of Thorbjornsen has helped Stanford overcome a huge deficit in the won-loss department. Now, the Cardinal head to nationals with a similar squad to the one it won it all with in 2019 – two standout seniors at the top, a veteran in the middle of the order, and some wild-cards rounding things out.

“I do think it’s good to get the guys in the moment like this,” Ray said. “And then all of a sudden, too, if it goes your way, you feel like we can keep this rolling, you have this shot of life. Truth be told, we didn’t play that great; I thought we’d play better, but this gives you a little shot of adrenaline when you can make it and do it down the stretch.”

Chip shots: After losing its first Big Ten title since 2014 – and just its second in 15 years – Illinois rebounded in a huge way with an eight-shot victory, its fifth of the season. Max Herendeen’s individual win was his second of the season, as he’s not finished worse than T-26 this year. … Florida State gets through regionals for the fourth consecutive season – and the second straight year out of a California site. Sophomore Luke Clanton was T-5, his ninth top-10 in his last 10 starts, a streak that includes three wins. … Texas A&M has now made nationals for the fifth time in the past six years. … SMU, the No. 7 seed, is back at nationals for the first time since 2021 – and a year after it failed to qualify for regionals as a team. … UCLA, the No. 6 seed, moved inside the number for a short while on Wednesday before playing its final three holes in 3 over.


Rancho Santa Fe Regional

The Farms GC, Rancho Santa Fe, California, Par 70

Advancing teams: 1. Oklahoma (-3), 2. California (+3), 3. Oklahoma State (+5), 3. West Virginia (+5), 5. North Florida (+10)

Eliminated: 6. Arizona State (+15), 7. San Diego (+17), 8. Washington (+20), 9. South Florida (+22), 10. Chattanooga (+28), 11. Kansas (+43), 12. Wright State (+53), 13. Seton Hall (+58), 14. Winthrop (+76)

Individual champion: Ben Lorenz, Oklahoma (-8)

Advancing individual: Andi Xu, San Diego (T-2, -4)

The story: Arizona State was supposed to sleepwalk through regionals. After all, the Sun Devils returned everyone from last year’s squad that reached match play at the NCAA Championship. And though this postseason’s starting five looked a little different – Luke Potter, a former top-ranked recruit but no longer with the team, announced Tuesday that he was transferring to Texas – Arizona State still boasted four players in the top 50 of the World Amateur Golf Ranking, including three in the top 20 and two in the top 10.

Long story short, it wasn’t a sleepwalk. It was a nightmare.

Arizona State, ranked fourth overall, became just the fifth No. 1 seed to ever not make it out of an NCAA regional, joining Clemson (2009), Florida (2017), Georgia Tech (2018) and LSU (2018). The Sun Devils got below the cut line early and never came up for air, ultimately finishing sixth, five shots back of North Florida, which led after 36 holes before hanging on.

Preston Summerhays tied for 50th for the Sun Devils, his fourth finish of 50th or worse this spring. Wenyi Ding, who had six top-10s in his first semester in Tempe, could only muster a T-42. The other three Sun Devils finished T-13 or better, but Arizona State couldn’t overcome duds from its two stars.

This is the first time since 2014 that Arizona State, which was coming off its first Pac-12 title since 2008, has failed to advance to nationals.

Chip shots: Oklahoma came alive on the final day, firing 11 under to finish atop the leaderboard at 3 under. That charge was fueled by a closing 64 from Ben Lorenz, the senior who has had an up-and-down career. He had just a single top-10 in the lineup for the Sooners this season and was subbed out for the final round at the Big 12 Championship. Yet, he lapped the field by four shots at The Farms for his second win of the season – he won an individual event to cap the fall. Oklahoma has now advanced to 13th straight NCAA Championships. … California was paced by senior Sampson Zheng (T-2) and freshman Eric Lee (T-7) as the Bears head to nationals for the first time since 2019, Collin Morikawa’s senior year. … It’s been a bit longer for West Virginia; the Mountaineers’ T-3 finish means they’ll be headed to their first NCAA Championship since 1947. … After missing out on its first NCAA Championship since 2012 last year, Oklahoma State returns thanks to big weeks from its veterans, Jonas Baumgartner (T-4) and Rayhan Thomas (T-7). … Nick Gabrelcik shook off a quad on the par-4 13th hole to birdie two of his last four holes. He was T-4 for North Florida, which heads to nationals for the fourth time in six years (the two misses were both sixth-place finishes). … San Diego, the No. 9 seed and host, finished a respectable seventh to cap a spring in which it climbed 75 spots in the national rankings from January to pre-regionals. … Washington, one of four No. 2 seeds that did not get through, had its No. 1 player, Peter Hruby, make an ‘11’ on his third hole of the tournament; he finished T-50 as the Huskies missed by 10 shots. … Chattanooga couldn’t replicate last year’s dream run to nationals, but Mocs head coach Blaine Woodruff has something great to look forward to this summer, as he and his wife, Katie, who lost their first child just days before her due date, are expecting a baby boy at the end of July.