Hiroshi Tai wins NCAA golf title and helps Georgia Tech advance

CARLSBAD, Calif. (AP) — Georgia Tech sophomore Hiroshi Tai survived a triple bogey on his 17th hole with a closing par for a 1-under 71, and it was just enough to win the NCAA men's golf title Monday at La Costa.

It also helped the Yellow Jackets narrowly join the eight teams that advance to match play to compete for the team title.

Tai became the fourth player from Georgia Tech to win the NCAA individual title, and first since Troy Matteson in 2002. The victory earns him a trip to the Masters next year.

Tai, who spent two years in the Singapore Navy before enrolling at Georgia Tech, finished at 3-under 285 for a one-shot victory over five players.

Gordon Sargent of Vanderbilt, the NCAA champion last year, and Ben James of Virginia were the last two players who had a chance to force a playoff, needing birdie on the par-5 18th.

Both chose to hit 3-wood to be sure to stay short of water on the left, though neither had a chance to reach the green. Sargent was in deep rough and fortunate to get a free drop because his feet were on the cart path.

James missed his 15-foot birdie attempt and shot 73. Sargent hit wedge that spun off the slope to 6 feet. His birdie caught the left edge of the cup and spun away. He closed with a 72.

Tai had finished his round nearly two hours earlier. He had led by as many as four shots earlier in the day, and then nearly threw it away on the par-3 eighth, his penultimate hole. From a bad lie in a bunker, he sent that well over the green and wound up with a triple bogey.

“I still had one more (hole) to play and everything to play for the team,” Tai said.

He spent time in the clubhouse checking to see Tech's chances of getting the eighth spot, and then headed to the range to prepare for a playoff that never happened.

Tyler Goecke of Illinois, Luke Clanton of Florida State and Jackson Koivun of Auburn, who won the Ben Hogan Award as the nation's best college golfer, each shot 71 to tie for second.

Koivun, finishing on the par-4 ninth, hit an approach that looked as though it would be about 10 feet behind the hole for a birdie chance. But it hit the top of the flagstick and caromed back into a front bunker. He blasted out to a foot and tapped in for par.

The other Georgia Tech individual champions were Matteson, Charlie Yates (1934) and Watts Gunn (1927).

“Adding my name to that list is awesome,” Tai said.

Georgia Tech got the No. 8 seed by one shot over Oklahoma, which had rallied to get into position. Ryder Cowan took double bogey on the 18th hole and Jase Summy made bogey. Florida also was in position until John DuBois bogeyed two of his last three holes and Ian Gilligan bogeyed three of his last four.

Illinois is the top seed in match play and opens against the Yellow Jackets. The other teams to qualify were Vanderbilt, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida State, Auburn and Ohio State.

The quarterfinals and semifinals are Tuesday, followed by the championship match Wednesday.


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