Senior Andrew Paysse’s lengthy birdie putt on his final hole of the day highlighted a dramatic conclusion to stroke play at the NCAA DI Men’s Golf Championships Monday as No. 2 Texas A&M secured a spot in the match play portion of the event. The Aggies finished eighth in the team standings at Karsten Creek Golf Club and will face top-ranked Oklahoma State on Tuesday morning during the quarterfinals of match play.
“Getting to match play has been our goal from the start,” Texas A&M head coach J.T. Higgins said. “You’d like to have made it a little easier and not had to wait until the final hole of the day to know you’re in, but I was really proud of the guys. They really clutched up with Paysse’s putt and Brandon [Smith] coming down the stretch. We got off to such a terrible start, but they hung in there and battled all day, just like they’ve done all year.”
The other quarterfinal match-ups will feature Duke vs. Texas, Texas Tech vs. Alabama and Oklahoma vs. Auburn with the winners moving on to the semifinal round Tuesday afternoon. Two schools will be left to battle head-to-head Wednesday for the 2018 NCAA DI Men's Golf National Championship.
“We knew coming up here if we wanted to win a national championship we were going to have to beat Oklahoma State,” Higgins said of the showdown with the Cowboys. "There’s no getting around it and you’ve got to play them at some point. We just happen to be the team to draw them in the first match. I really believe these are the two best teams in the country. I think we match up pretty good with them and we’re going to go out and give them all they can handle. It’s going to be a great atmosphere.”
The Aggies (293-289-289-298=1169, 17) entered Monday’s competition in seventh place and survived a wild final round that saw significant movement among the 15 teams remaining in the hunt. Oklahoma State (E) topped the final stroke play leaderboard followed by Duke (+8), Texas Tech (+9), Oklahoma (+11), Auburn (+15), Alabama (+16), Texas (+16) and Texas A&M. Vanderbilt finished in ninth place at 18-over par and just one shot short of forcing a playoff with the Aggies for the eighth and final spot in match play.
Individually, sophomore Brandon Smith (74-70-70-73=287, -1) continued to lead the way for the Aggies in the player standings by tying for 11th place. The Frisco, Texas, native carded a one-over 73 to turn in A&M’s lowest round for the third consecutive day at the championship.
“Brandon played rock solid golf,” Higgins said of Smith’s showing during stroke play. “I watched every one of his shots all day and he was keeping his ball in play off the tee. He played really smart and disciplined golf. The way he’s played the last month of the season and where he has come as both a player and as a person, we just couldn’t ask for more.”
Paysse (71-74-71-74=290, +2), meanwhile, carded birdies on two of his final three holes including one on the par-five No. 9, his final hole of the day, to break a tie for eighth place with Vanderbilt and avoid a playoff between the schools. The Temple, Texas, native tied for 21st.
“He [Paysse] made quadruple bogie on his second hole of the day and for most players that would have derailed them,” said Higgins. “He had so much heart and fight because this means so much to him so he just never gave up. To play two-under from that point, on that course in those conditions shows that he’s a stud and I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
Rookie Walker Lee (74-72-73-77=296, +8) ended stroke play tied for 41st, while Dan Erickson (74-73-75-78=300, +12) and Chandler Phillips (75-77-75-74=301, +13) rounded out the A&M lineup with shares of 57th and 61st, respectively.
Augusta’s Broc Everett bested Brandon Manceno of Auburn in a playoff to claim the individual national championship after both players finished the 72 holes of stroke play at seven-under par.
The Golf Channel will have live coverage of Tuesday’s match play, airing the quarterfinals from 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and the semifinals from 3-7 p.m.