Trojans Fall In NCAA Championships Match Play Final|
June 3, 2015
Arguably the best run in USC men's golf history ended one goal short of completion as the Trojans fell to LSU, 4-1, in the 2015 NCAA Championships Match Play final Wednesday (June 3) at the Concession G.C. in Bradenton, Fla.
The Trojans' runner-up finish is the best in program history, bettering the seven third places that dot the history books.
USC earned its shot at the first NCAA title in program history after finishing fifth in 72 holes of stroke play and following it with upset wins over No. 2 Texas and No. 4 Illinois in the quarterfinals and semifinals on Tuesday. But an equally hot LSU team, ranked ninth, was just better enough Wednesday.
USC ninth-year head coach Chris Zambri last got this close in 2008, when USC finished third at the NCAA Championships by two strokes.
"Yeah, second place is way better than third and everything after it, but in the end, where we are, that's how we're judged, measured, and so you know, I'm pretty bummed," Zambri said. "This was a huge day. It's hard, it's really hard to get here. It's tough to get into this position, so when you get here, you want to get it done."
Senior Eric Sugimoto secured USC's lone point, 1up on 17 when LSU clinched the match. He was USC's top finisher the last two days of stroke play at 2-under. In addition to leading today, he won his match against Illinois and was tied when play was called against Texas.
"I'm happy with all the kids," Zambri said. "Everybody did great, had moments of greatness this year, and so I'm really excited for the kids who are coming back, and I'm really happy for Eric. He's going to leave college golf with his head super high because he was phenomenal this week for us. He came through on the four biggest days of the year. "
Said Sugimoto: "It's been a great week. I'm proud of the guys, and I'm very happy with how we played. It could have been a little better, but overall it's been a really great experience and something I'll remember for the rest of my life."
The Trojans kept every match tight and extended the run as long as they could. USC went down 2-0 after sophomore Rico Hoey fell, 2&1, to LSU's Brandon Pierce and when sophomore Sean Crocker, shortly after, lost to Tiger Zach Wright, 3&2.
Hoey had led USC off and was 1up early, but was square through 6 and 1down through 11. He closed a three-hole lead to two after winning 14 but lost after halving 17. Crocker was square through much of his match, but lost after dropping 14, 15 and 16.
Sugimoto, meanwhile, was fending off LSU's Stewart Jolly and led for all but one hole on the back 9. Freshman Jonah Texeira rallied from a three-hole deficit on 11 to close to within one after winning 16.
Sophomore Bobby Gojuangco, who, like Hoey, won both his matches on Tuesday, led LSU's Ben Taylor after a huge putt on 16, but saw Taylor tie the match on 17 with an eagle.
Texeira was facing a long putt, needing to halve 17 to stay alive, and Sugimoto was on the 17 fairway when Taylor sunk his par putt on 18 to defeat Gojuangco and seal the match.
The Trojans lose only Sugimoto from their NCAA Championships roster.
"I think it's great that the four of the guys that will be here next year, we've all had such a great week and played seven straight days of really good golf," Gojuangco said. "I think next year is going to be really good."