TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The No. 8 Auburn men’s golf team built a nine-shot cushion towards advancing after the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional second round at Ol’ Colony Golf Course on Tuesday. The Tigers improved with a 2-over 290 and are in fifth behind a 2-under 70 from Freshman All-SEC Jacob Solomon and a 71 from Will Long.
Following Wednesday’s final round, the top five teams and one individual not on those teams qualify for the 120th NCAA Men’s Golf Championship in Eugene, Ore., at The Eugene Country Club May 27-June 1.
No. 5 Georgia continues to lead at 10-under 284-282--566 followed by No. 17 South Carolina (287-282—569), Kentucky (288-287--575), Alabama (292-284--576), Auburn (294-290--584), UNLV (290-303—593), College of Charleston (298-295—593), Lipscomb (302-300—602), Colorado (296-306—602), Kansas (308-301--609), Harvard (323-298—621), Southern Illinois (314-308--622) and Charleston Southern (315-310--625).
“We just need to worry about Auburn and take care of business,” said Auburn head coach Nick Clinard. “Once again, two days in a row now we played really, really well for 13-14 holes, and we can’t finish our rounds. We dropped five shots coming in today and dropped six shots yesterday. Our challenge tomorrow is to shoot under par and see if we can climb up this leaderboard a little bit.”
Long, who is playing in his first tournament in two months, is pacing the Tigers in a tie for 11th with an even par 73-71—144, five shots behind the leaders. The Gastonia, N.C., native birdied three of his first four holes, doubled the sixth and bogeyed the eighth to turn even. He birdied Nos. 11 and 14 and bogeyed the 17th.
“I hit it really well, and my putter was hot,” said Long. “I guess that is why I played well. My short game really bailed me out of trouble. I made a lot of key putts and hopefully tomorrow will go better than today.”
Solomon jumped from 42nd to a tie for 20th at 76-70—146 with five birdies and an eagle. The Dublin, Calif., native doubled No. 2, eagled the par 5 third with a 25-yard chip-in.
“It was a really up and down round, but overall I played really well for most of it,” said Solomon. “I had an early double bogey and had a really good rebound, chipping in for eagle on the next hole. So, that was awesome. I was 25 yards just short right of the green on the par 5. I landed it right on the spot I wanted to. I heard it hit the pin. That was really exciting.”
Solomon birdied No. 5 followed by three-straight birdies on Nos. 9-11 to get to 4-under on the day.
“I had three-straight birdies at the turn,” Solomon continued. “I was just really ball striking it well today and putting it close to the pins. When you do that, it is pretty hard to shoot over par.”
A bogey on No. 15 and a double on the par-3 17th came before a 45-foot birdie putt on No. 18.
“I made an unbelievable birdie on 18,” Solomon said. “I had it below this ridge on the green and made an absolute bomb. It was a 45-footer dead center of the cup with perfect speed so that was a great note to end on and pretty exciting with the crowd here too to get a loud applause for that.
“I played a great round overall so you can’t be upset with 2-under out here. It is a tough course. I had a lot of highlights from today’s round and had a lot of fun, and we will go get it tomorrow.”
All-American Ben Schlottman is tied for 34th at 76-74—150 with birdies at Nos. 7, 9 and 10 while All-SEC Matt Gilchrest is tied for 38th at 76-75—151 with birdies at Nos. 4, 12 and 17.
“We have five good players,” said Clinard. “There is no doubt about that. All of them can handle their business, and all of them can shoot in the 60s. It is just a matter of doing it at the right time. We haven’t played in a month. We are a little rusty, and it shows. I think in the last two days we got the rust off, and tomorrow is go time.”
A trio at 5-under are tied for the lead in Kentucky’s Tyler McDaniel (72-67—139) along with the Georgia duo of Greyson Sigg (68-71—139) and Zach Healy (68-71—139).
“We want to send (senior) Michael (Johnson) out on a really good note and getting through here is the first thing we have to do,” said Long. “Our main goal is to win a national championship, and we can’t do that without advancing through the regional. Tomorrow, we just need to play well and see what happens.”
Auburn will tee off in Wednesday’s final round at 7:50 am CT off No. 1 with Alabama and College of Charleston. Live-scoring can be followed at www.golfstat.com.