TEXARKANA – The back nine of the Texarkana Country Club golf course was the breakaway point for the UTEP men’s golf team as they pulled away from their tie with North Texas to take sole possession of first place in the final round of stroke play at the Conference USA Men’s Golf Championships and the top seed going into tomorrow’s match play.
The Miners shot 15-over 879 (287-294-298) to best North Texas, who came in second with 19-over 883 (283-297-303) and third place Charlotte, who shot 28-over 892 (289-292-311). Middle Tennessee and Southern Miss tied for fourth with 29-over 893 and will battle in a one-hole playoff tomorrow at 7:30 a.m. CT for the fourth and final spot in the match play portion of the tournament.
The winner will face UTEP while Charlotte and North Texas will compete in the other semifinals match play, with the winners battling for the C-USA team championship.
The first round of match play at the Texarkana Country Club (par 72/6,969 yards) tees off at 7:30 a.m. CT concluding with the second round at 12:30 p.m. CT to determine the 2017 Conference USA Men’s Golf Champion.
Charlotte senior Seth Gandy fired a 2-under 214 (67-71-76) to take individual medalist honors.
“First things first, our goal was to get to the match play, whatever seed it was,” sixth-year head coach Scott Lieberwirth said. “Fortunately, we are the No. 1 seed heading into match play, but tomorrow everything is wiped clean. We have to come out and take care of business in the first match. We’re not sure who that’ll be, the playoff [between Middle Tennessee and Southern Miss] will run tomorrow morning. Whoever we get, we know we’re going to get their best shot. We have to show up ready to go.”
The Miners were the only team in the tournament to have a three round total below 300.
“Throughout the day, and in the afternoon especially, we had a pretty large buffer on those teams trying to make the match play cutoff,” Lieberwirth said. “The golf course was playing extremely difficult this afternoon, the greens were extremely firm and fast as well, that made for very difficult scoring, plus being the second round of the day that these student athletes were playing, fatigue was setting in. It was an extremely long day, but I thought our guys really hung in well. We played that back nine well. I think that was more than anything why we pulled away. We just kind of hung in there and kept playing reasonably well. North Texas and Charlotte both struggled coming in late, which, to be honest, was not hard to do, it was really tough out there.”
The last time the Miners made the match play portion of the Conference USA Championships was in 2015. Though they fell to UAB that year, UTEP’s finish of third place marked the best placing in program history since the institution entered Conference USA in 2006. The team just missed out on last year’s match play when they placed fifth in stroke play.
All five Miners placed in the top-50, but three placed in the top-10. Junior Charles Corner spearheaded the Miners’ run, firing 3-over 219 (73-70-76) to finish in sixth place, five strokes out of first place. Corner made birdie on hole No. 16 in the final round and his second round score of 70 was the lowest of the day for the Miners.
Frederik Dreier and Aaron Terrazas helped the Miners’ first place effort, tying for seventh with 4-over 220. Dreier shot a round of 77 and 72, collecting four birdies, two on the front nine and two on the back nine while bogeying four times on the difficult back nine. Terrazas fired 73 and 74 while tallying a birdie on hole No. 8 and only bogeying once on the back nine.
“They were solid,” Lieberwirth said of Corner, Dreier and Terrazas. “Especially the spring, we haven’t had any great individual performances, meaning top-5s or wins, but we have had consistent, solid play out of all of those guys. They were great. Freddie got a couple of unlucky breaks on the last nine holes, but he played very well. Aaron was solid, start to finish, but you know I feel like we’ve got a group of very solid players that I trust and that I feel confident going into tomorrow with.”
Breaking into the top-20 was Andreas Sorensen, who shot 7-over 223 (70-77-76), finishing with four birdies, three of which came in the third round, to finish with a share of 17th place. Nicklas Pihl rounded out the Miners’ scorecard in a tie for 42nd with 17-over 233 (79-74-80). The junior saw his best round of the tournament in his score of 74 in round two.
“I’m proud of how my guys played,” Lieberwirth said. “They did a great job. I wouldn’t say that was the best day of golf that we’ve played all year, but that was some of the toughest golf we’ve played, without question. I credit my guys for hanging tough.The scores didn’t look great, but the effort that was given and the way that we fought over the last nine holes, I’m very proud of that.”
The Conference USA men’s golf champion will be crowned following the results of the second round of match play. Live stats will be available via golfstat.com.
“You have a good field in this conference, as you can see by the scores,” Lieberwirth said. “We understand nothing is given at this point. In match play, anything can happen. We just have to show up tomorrow and be the better team.”
2017 Conference USA Men’s Golf Championships Stroke Play Final:
Team — Score
1. UTEP – 287-294-298=879 (+15)
2. North Texas – 283-297-303=883 (+19)
3. Charlotte – 289-292-311=892 (+28)
T4. Middle Tennessee – 294-292-307=893 (+29)
T4. Southern Miss – 296-299-298=893 (+29)
6. Marshall – 297-299-304=900 (+36)
7. UTSA – 302-300-300=902 (+38)
8. UAB – 295-298-310=903 (+39)
9. Rice – 299-308-298=905 (+41)
10. WKU – 299-306-305=910 (+46)
11. Louisiana Tech – 307-302-310=919 (+55)
12. Old Dominion – 307-296-317=920 (+56)
13. Florida Atlantic – 307-314-318=939 (+75)