OCALA, Fla. – Junior Ethan Tracy sank a birdie putt on 18 for the University of Arkansas men’s golf team at the Southeast Regional to secure a spot for the Razorbacks at the 2011 NCAA Championships on Saturday afternoon at the Golden Ocala Golf Club in Ocala, Fla.
The Razorbacks finish the regional in fifth place with a score of eight-under par to claim the last qualifying spot. The final hour of competition at the regional were tense for the Razorbacks and their fans as Missouri made a hard charge to get the last qualifier. The Tigers shot 14-under par on Saturday, but finished two strokes shy of the Razorbacks. Florida won the regional at 18-under par and was followed by Augusta State (-12), Kennesaw State (-11), and North Carolina State (-9).
"Rounds like today are especially tough on the coaches," Arkansas head coach Brad McMakin said. "I am really proud of the guys to hang in there and do what needed to be done to get to the national championship. Ethan had a great tournament and his putt on 18 was clutch. Jamie showed his heart today. He had a pair of tough rounds and responded with a score of two-under par. Now we go to the national championships where anything can happen."
Tracy and senior Jamie Marshall led the Razorbacks with scores of two-under par on Saturday. Tracy, as he has all weekend, looked very good on the course, hitting greens in regulation and giving himself an opportunity to shoot low. He birdied his second hole of the day, but moved back to even par after a bogey on four. He wrapped up his opening nine with a pair of birdies on five and eight. Tracy sandwiched a birdie with two bogeys on 11, 12 and 13 to stay at one-under par until he stepped to the tee box on 18.
Taking driver off the tee box, Tracy’s tee shot went left into the rough so he chose the safe path and hit a short iron to get close to the par five green. His third shot, a 52-degree gap wedge from 115 yards, dropped 20 feet from the pin and stuck giving him his birdie putt. The downhill putt for Tracy was tenuous and had his coaches and teammates holding their breath, but trickled into the cup and pushed Arkansas’ score to eight-under par and two up on Missouri who still had three holes to play.
Marshall’s round began with a pair of pars before he birdied two of his next three holes. Looking sharp, Marshall was two-under par through seven before a pair of bogeys on eight and nine had him even at the turn. The elder statesman of the team responded from his back-to-back bogeys with birdies on 10, 11 and 12 to go to three-under par and closed out his round with a single bogey to shoot his best round of the tournament, two-under par.
Sophomore Austin Cook played one of his best tournaments of the year at the regional when his third round gave him a three-day score of three-under par. Cook was on a roll early as he was one-under par at the turn and birdied 11 and 12 to move to three-under. A double bogey on 13 ruined what could have been a great round for the Jonesboro, Ark., native, but he responded and closed the round with four pars and a bogey to finish at even.
Arkansas’ final score on the day came from freshman Will Pearson who grinded his way to a score of two-over par despite a triple bogey on nine. Pearson posted birdies on five, seven and 12, three of the four par five holes on the course and just missed a birdie on the final par five. Rattled following his bad hole, Pearson bounced back to play the final nine holes at even par with a single birdie and bogey and warp up Arkansas’ advancement.
Freshman Sebastian Cappelen began the round with a bloody nose and back-to-back double bogeys on nine and 10 led him to his worst round of the tournament.
The NCAA Championships begin on May 31 and run through June 5 at Karsten Creek in Stillwater, Okla.