May 7, 2008
MOORESVILLE, N.C.--Following yesterday’s blistering round of 287, fourth-ranked USC Aiken made up eight of the 12 shots by which they trailed Georgia College & State University. On Wednesday, the Pacers (+21) continued their strong play, opening four-under-par through three holes, but then struggled from that point forth, carding their worst round of the 2008 NCAA Division II Southeast Regional, a 13-over-par 301, finishing a distant second, 13 strokes behind the Bobcats (+8).
The 54-hole event was contested at the 7,037 yard, par 72 Point Lake and Golf Club in Mooresville, N.C. Belmont Abbey served as the host for the event. Nestled on the north shore of Lake Norman, the course was designed by Greg Norman with more than two-thirds of the holes playing directly along or over the water.
Although they failed to win their sixth regional crown in seven years, the Pacers did earn one of the three at-large spots from the Southeast/Atlantic Super Regional to the national tournament. Along with GCSU (+8) and Belmont Abbey (+25), winners of the Atlantic Region, USC Aiken (+21), Newberry (+27) and Clayton State (+37) will advance to the 46th Division II National Championship to be held May 14-17 in Houston, Texas and hosted by Rice University and the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority.
Making the program’s 17th-straight NCAA Tournament appearance, top-seeded USC Aiken competed against seven other teams, and alongside eight squads in the Atlantic Regional, making up the Southeast/Atlantic Super Regional. The Pacers won the regional five consecutive times from 2002 to 2006 until Columbus State ended USCA’s unprecedented reign last year.
Newberry finished third following the day’s second best round of 294, followed by Clayton State, Lander (+38), Carson-Newman (+46), Columbus State (+48), and Armstrong Atlantic State (+54) to round out the field.
Freshman Ashley Smith rebounded from a tough round of 81 yesterday to lead the Pacer contingent with an even-par 72 on Wednesday, finishing tied for 24th. Smith opened his final round by birdying three of his first five holes before bogeys on six and seven dropped him back to one-under-par. Playing the front side at 34, Smith bogeyed 10, 11, and 14 to move into black numbers, only to record three pars and a birdie four on 16 to conclude his tournament. Smith was three-under on the par fives for his final 18 holes.
Jeff Goff fired a final round of three-over-par 75 to finish tied for sixth at three-over-par 219, his third-straight top 10 in a Division II event. The senior All-Conference standout began the day with a birdie on the par five second hole, and did not run into trouble until a double bogey on eight. Another double on 10 dropped Goff back to three-over-par.
The eighth hole was quite possibly the Pacers undoing, one they played at four-under-par as a group on Tuesday. A hole that ranked as the easiest of the 18 heading into the final round, proved to trip up Goff, Roberto Diaz, and J.P. Solis, with each one of them double bogeying the hole. By contrast, GCSU was two-under-par for the day, an eight-shot swing.
Diaz and Solis signed for a pair of 77’s to finish tied for 13th respectively. For Solis, he recorded five birdies on the day, the same as Smith, but unfortunately four double bogeys was the freshman’s undoing.
Kevin Grady registered pars on eight of his first nine holes to make the turn at one-over-par, but five bogeys and an eight on the par four 11th resulted in a tough 45 on the back side, tying the sophomore for 32nd at 17-over-par.
Niclas Johansson of GCSU fired his third-straight sub-par round with a three-under-par 69 to claim medalist honors by two shots over Brad Robinson of Carson-Newman.