ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - The Auburn men's golf team took down Alabama, 3-2, to win the 2018 Southeastern Conference Championship. It is the first league title for the Tigers since 2002.
"I'm really proud of the guys, not only the five that were with us but the whole team and those cheering in the locker room back home," head coach Nick Clinard said. "This win is for all 12 of them."
In a tight battle between the teams all day, the championship was decided on the 18th hole of the final match. Freshman Wells Padgett stepped up and sank a 20-foot putt to clinch his point and the championship.
"It was a tough match out there," Clinard said. "Alabama is great. We just fought to the end. My anchor, Wells Padgett, was the anchor all week in match play. We had him in that hole because we knew his confidence level in that spot and we knew that he could come through in the clutch and, boy, did he ever."
Padgett and Alabama's Jonathan Hardee were all square heading into the final hole after Hardee nearly aced the 17th. Padgett's third shot on the 18th landed on the green, while Hardee was forced to chip onto the green. The freshman then measured the long putt and buried it, giving the Tigers the league title.
"That was the biggest putt I've ever made in my life," Padgett said. "It was great being able to do it for my team. To do it as an individual in a tournament is cool, but doing it for your team is the greatest feeling."
Auburn's first point of the match came from junior Trace Crowe in a 2&1 victory over Alabama's Davis Riley. Crowe birdied the first hole to take the lead and never surrendered it, earning the result with a par on the 17th.
Southpaw Brandon Mancheno also emerged victorious in his match with Wilson Furr of Alabama with a similar final score of 2&1. The freshman led for all but three holes before clinching the win with a par on the 17th hole.
With the conference title, the Tigers have clinched an automatic berth into the NCAA Regionals. The 2018 Selection Show is set to take place Wednesday, May 2 at 4:30 p.m. CT on The Golf Channel. Regionals will take place May 14-16 in Raleigh, N.C., Bryan, Texas, Columbus, Ohio, Kissimmee, Fla., Norman, Okla. and Stockton, Calif.
2018 SEC Championship Semifinals - Match Play
(4) Auburn 3, (6) Alabama 2
Lee Hodges (UA) def. Jovan Rebula (AU), 2&1
Trace Crowe (AU) def. Davis Riley (UA), 2&1
Davis Shore (UA) def. Ryan Knop (AU), 6&5
Brandon Mancheno (AU) def. Wilson Furr (UA), 2&1
Wells Padgett (AU) def. Jonathan Hardee (UA), 1-up