USC Advances To First NCAA Championship Final|
June 2, 2015
The USC men's golf team completed one of the best days in program history and has a chance to top it tomorrow as the Trojans followed their NCAA Championships morning quarterfinal match play win over second-ranked Texas with a 3-1-1 semifinal victory over fourth-ranked Illinois Tuesday (June 2) to earn a spot in the match play final Wednesday (June 3) at the Concession G.C. in Bradenton, Fla.
USC, which has never won an NCAA team title in men's golf, will face No. 7 seed and ninth-ranked LSU in the final, which will begin at 7:30 a.m. PT. Golf Channel will provide live coverage beginning at 8:30 a.m. PT.
The Trojans had not won a match play match since the NCAA Championships instituted the format in 2009, losing in the quarterfinals in their only appearance that same year. USC's best look at an NCAA Championships came in 2008, when the Trojans finished third by two strokes. It was the seventh third-place in program history. USC has never finished second.
The Trojans, underdogs for the second match in a row, clinched the win when senior Eric Sugimoto followed a gorgeous 3-wood that landed inside of 20 feet of the pin with a conceded birdie. That gave him a 3&1 win over Illinois' Nick Hardy in a match he trailed by one hole with five to play.
Junior Bobby Gojuangco gave USC its first point when he won his second match of the day, 3&2 over Dylan Meyer. After seeing what was once a four-hole lead sliced to one on 11, the junior rebounded to go up three after 15 and clinched the match with a par putt on 16 that halved the hole.
Sophomore Rico Hoey also doubled up, winning for the second time today with a 2&1 over Charlie Danielson. Hoey trailed for much of the front, but squared the match with a stunning 180-foot eagle that holed out on the 9th green. He went up three holes thanks to a great drive off the 11th tee, a beautiful sand wedge that dribbled to within inches of the hole on 12 and a great chip from some 80 yards on 13. Danielson got to within two on 14 but Hoey halved the remaining holes, clinching on 17.
Freshman Sean Crocker, who clinched USC's win over Texas on his first playoff hole, never got going against Illinois' Thomas Detry and fell 2&1.
As Sugimoto was picking up momentum, freshman Jonah Texeira was staging his own comeback, turning a three-hole deficit after 14 into a squared match on 18 after winning straight holes. He was on the 18th green when Sugimoto clinched the win on 17.
Asked about the big day the Trojans had, ninth-year head coach Chris Zambri attributed it to the growth of his team.
"They're just good players," he said. "They're good players playing well, and so I don't know if it goes much deeper than that. You know, rankings wise, it might not appear that way. If you look at our team ranking, if you look at the individual rankings of our players, but everybody has shown signs of being excellent. I'm not one bit surprised with the way Bobby is playing or Eric. They're just playing phenomenal golf. They work really hard, and I think we've found a place that really fits us."
Said Sugimoto: "This is something we all dreamed about, making a reality. We had an up and down season, but the talent was there, the flashes of brilliance were just everywhere, everywhere you looked, and our team is really deep, and we've got a lot of great players. I think just talking about it and thinking about how it got us here."