Men's Golf
    Alabama, Cal, Oregon, Texas Advance To NCAA Match Play Semis

    June 1, 2012

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    Alabama continued its hot play and advanced to the national semifinals along with California, Texas and Oregon on the first day of the eight-team match-play portion of the 2012 NCAA Men's Golf Championships on Friday (June 1) at the Riviera C.C. in Palisades, Calif.

    Alabama will face California in the first semifinal at 10 a.m. on Saturday (June 2) while Texas will square off with Oregon beginning at 10:45 a.m., both off the first tee. Of the four, only Oregon has to been to the semifinals since the match play format resumed in 2009 (they did so in 2010, when it lost to Oklahoma State).

    Alabama, seeded first in match play after leading the 54-hole stroke play competition from start to finish, defeated Kent State, 3-1-1. The Crimson Tide's Justin Thomas downed the Flashes' Kevin Miller 6&5 while Cory Whitsett took care of Kyle Kmiecik, 5&4 to give Alabama a quick 2-0 lead. It was Kmiecik's birdie that proved decisive against Florida State in an early morning playoff that determined the No. 8 seed.

    The Flashes' Corey Conners, who tied for fourth in stroke play with Alabama's Whitsett, defeated Scott Strohmeyer to get to within 2-1, but the Tide's Bobby Wyatt edged Kent State's Taylor Pendrith, 2&1 for the clinching point.

    The Tide will play No. 4 seed Cal, which defeated No. 5 seed San Diego State, 3-2. The Aztecs' J.J. Spaun defeated Cal's Max Homa 4&3 while San Diego State's Colin Featherstone downed Bear Brandon Hagy, 2&1. Cal evened the match after Pace Johnson defeated Matt Hoffenberg, 4&3, and Michael Kim outlasted Tom Berry, 3&1.

    The match came down to the final pairing, where Cal's Joel Stalter broke a tie with a par on 16 to go 1 up and he completed the 2&1 win over Alex Kang with 20-foot birdie putt on 17.

    On the other side, No. 7 seed Oregon will take on No. 3 seed Texas, which came into the championships ranked first. The Ducks earned the semifinal nod with a 3-2 win over the Bruins. UCLA went up 2-1 as Patrick Cantlay downed Jonathan Woo, 5&3, and Pontus Widegren took care of Robbie Ziegler, 2&1, while the Ducks' Andrew Vijarro defeated Alex Kim, 3&2.

    Oregon's Daniel Miernicki and UCLA's Pedro Figueiredo became the first pair all day to make it to 18 and Miernicki completed a 2-up win with a par to even the match. The Ducks' Eugene Wong and the Bruins' Anton Arboleda soon followed with Wong clinging to a one hole lead. Wong set himself up with less than a foot for par to force Arboleda to birdie, but the Bruin sophomore was unable to convert, ending UCLA's run.

    The Longhorns advanced with a 5-0 win over No. 6 seed Washington as Texas led across the board for most the match. Toni Hakula, who made a hole-in-one in stroke play, defeated the Huskies' Charlie Hughes, 3&2, while Jordan Spieth beat Washington's Ty Chambers, 4&3, for a 2-0 lead. With the Longhorns leading on all fronts, it was Dylan Frittelli who clinched it with a 2&1 victory over Cheng-Tsung Pan.

    Alabama Coach Jay Seawell: "We had two guys play just fantastic golf (Thomas and Whitsett) and in our tournament schedule we probably would have had a low score today, but you have to get three wins and that last point is always hard. We knew coming in that to get to three (points) is hard.

    "I am really proud of (Scott). He probably became the anchor of why this program went from being very good to being one of the best teams in the country. He brought some confidence to the other guys and some maturity. They just believe in him. He has continued, since the time we put him in the lineup after Las Vegas, to really get better and better every week. I have total faith him. That looked like a 12-foot putt (on No. 17) but it was only probably two. He knocked it right in the center, and I don't think anyone doubted he was going to.

    "We felt like (match play) was another tournament. It wasn't really a qualifier, it was a full-fledged tournament to even get into (match play), you really just start a new tournament. It is a weird feeling on the chipping green to pull up when there is only a few vans and hardly anyone on the range. It has a different feel, for sure, but we just said, 'start over.'"

    Kent State Coach Herb Page: "We started slow like we have every day out here this week. We got back into a bit, but what can you say, we got beat. Probably the coolest thing was on 18 at 8 in the morning (in the playoff against Florida State). I told the guys to remember that feeling -- the tremendous pressure. That's what it's all about."

    Cal Coach Steve Desimone: "We didn't play as well as we did yesterday, but as you know match-play is a different game. We were just fortunate to come out on top.

    "It's been a heck of a run. There are only four teams left so it makes you feel pretty good. Especially with this group of guys, they are a special bunch.

    "Joel (Stalter) told me last night that he would like to have that last spot. I felt with him in the backseat if it came down to the last match we would be all right. I have to give him credit."

    San Diego State Coach Ryan Donovan: "It was my first time in this format. It was interesting. Their guy made a 20-footer on 17 to clinch it. Otherwise, we might still be playing.

    "We had a phenomenal year. We won our conference for the second time in a row and to come from behind on the last day (of stroke play) showed a lot of heart and passion. We're obviously disappointed that we did not advance, but this is a big building block. We can hang our heads high. We were among the best eight teams down the stretch. It was a great year and it will help recruiting and get us on the map a little bit."

    Oregon Coach Casey Martin: "I'm ecstatic that we won. The guys have had a magical year and I'm grateful that I can coach one more day. There's definitely a difference between stroke play and match play but I told them just to play golf. I saw a lot of great shots today from both teams. But we get to play on and I'm ecstatic for the team."

    UCLA head coach Derek Freeman: "I felt like we did a good job winning the first match and if we could just manage the next three we would be alright. I told our team that Oregon would never give up, so we had to keep the hammer down on them the whole time.

    "Match-play is momentum driven and you have to be able to handle the pressure, your surroundings and everyone around you.

    "I'm really proud of my guys. They wanted this more then we'll ever know, but we have to get better. I have to get better at understanding how match-play scenarios will play out. Two years of losing in the first round of match-play is tough but it's the nature of collegiate golf, so we have to adjust."

    Texas Coach John Fields: "We turned well on 10, 11, 12 and 13, and managed to get two- and three-up in several matches, but that didn't matter. When you're playing against a quality team like Washington, you know those guys aren't going to give up. They're not going to quit, they're not going to do anything other than get after it. And they did. So I'm really proud of our guys. I congratulate (Washington head coach) Matt Thurmond on a great year. He has a fantastic team - a first-team All-American, a Walker Cup (player) - and we knew that we were going to have our hands full today. So we never let down. Ever. There was some emotion involved there."

    Washington Coach Matt Thurmond: "I'm disappointed, but I've had losses that hurt a lot worse. That team just played awesome. I thought we played pretty well today. We did what we wanted to do, we didn't give them a lot of holes and make many mistakes. They just played amazing. I don't know even if we played our best today if we could have beat them.

    "That's a very different feeling than if you blew it and knew you should have had it. Props to Texas for a great day."