It looked bleak early on, but the Wake Forest Men's golf team has advanced to the NCAA Championship after finishing in fifth-place in the NCAA Tucson Regional with a score of 1-under par. The Deacs are one of 30 teams competing in the NCAA Championship that will begin on May 27th in Eugene, Oregon. All 30 teams will compete in the first 3 rounds of the tournament, with the top-15 competing on the fourth day. After four rounds, the field will get narrowed to eight teams and those teams will compete in a match play tournament to determine the national champion.
On a day where all of the top teams were under-par, the Deacs found themselves at even par (of the four scores that counted) after nine holes, which meant that they were trailing by seven shots. That's not insurmountable in college golf, given that it's really a back 36, but it is still a fairly substantial lead. But on the back nine, the golf team showed why they have won four tournaments this year.
Davis Womble was a shaky 4-over after nine, but he took advantage of the back nine par 5's. He made a huge eagle on 11 and birdied 16 to finish his round at a respectable 1-over par. Paul McBride was 2-under on the front nine, and fired a 1-under on the back to finish his round at 2-under. He and Womble both finished the three-day regional at 1-under par, which were the best scores on the team along with Kyle Sterbinsky.
Sophomore Will Zalatoris just didn't have his 'A' game during this regional. He's one of the best players in the country, but finished the regional at 12-over, which is well over his average. This meant that Wake needed a pair of freshmen to come through. On this day, their talent and not their youth came through.
Cameron Young didn't have the best regional overall, but he had a nice performance when it mattered. He played the front nine at 1-under. He bogeyed holes 12 and 15, but regained his composure and came up with clutch birdies on 16 and 17. Kyle Sterbinsky, who was Wake's 5th ranked player, finished the front nine at 1-under. His back nine was all over the place, but there were more circles than squares on the scoreboard and he finished his round at 3-under par. Tremendous performance from the freshmen.
The performance on the par 5's on the back were the difference. Of the scores that counted, the Deacs went 9-under on the 8* par 5 holes on the back (4 players x 2 par 5's). North Florida, who Wake replaced in the top 5, went just 3-under par.
It was a great day for the Demon Deacons. If they can get into match play, they have the talent to beat anyone in the country.