Clemson wins NCAA golf title
Friday, May 30th 2003, 12:00 am
News On 6
STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) _ Clemson has been ranked No. 1 all season in the college golf rankings. Now the Tigers have the trophy to prove it.
Surviving another blistering Oklahoma day, Clemson held on to beat host Oklahoma State by two strokes Friday for its first NCAA title. The Tigers became the first team to win their conference tournament, NCAA regional and NCAA tournament in the same year.
``It was probably the hardest round of golf I think we've ever had to play,'' coach Larry Penley said. ``We shoot 15 over par and still win? It was extremely tough.''
Playing in 95-degree weather, Clemson shot a 303 and wound up 39-over for the four rounds. Oklahoma State, which began the day one shot behind Clemson, shot 304 and wound up 41-over.
UCLA was third at 45-over, while Wake Forest and Florida tied for fourth at plus-46.
The individual winner was Arizona State freshman Alejandro Canizares, whose 3-under 69 left him at 1-under 287, two shots ahead of Auburn's Lee Williams. Williams, the leader after each of the first three days, was undone by double-bogeys on 16 and 17 and wound up with a 77.
Clemson had been dominant throughout the season, finishing first or second in 11 of its 12 stroke-play events. The Tigers and Oklahoma State battled all day, with the Cowboys stumbling a bit on the closing holes.
Clemson's Jack Ferguson, playing in the final group, double-bogeyed 17 to cut the Tigers' lead to three with one hole to play. He was paired with Oklahoma State's Hunter Mahan, who had eagled No. 18 each of the past two days.
Ferguson played conservatively, laying up on the par-5 final hole and easily two-putting from about 25 feet as Mahan birdied.
``I'm just glad we were able to come through,'' said Clemson's D.J. Trahan, who chose not to turn pro last year and return for his senior season. ``I'm not going to kid you, it's a lot of pressure, it takes a lot of guts. This is a tough golf course.
``Coming down stretch, you've really got to pull it together and sack it up, and we did that today. We played fantastic coming in.''
Trahan had Clemson's best round, a 74. The Cowboys' best score was a 75 by Alex Noren. Mahan wound up with a 76.
Auburn's Williams began the day at the only player in red figures. He struggled early in his round, but was at 3-under after a birdie on 14 before his round fell apart.
He also double-bogeyed 16 on Thursday, but finished par-birdie. He wasn't as fortunate this time.
After his trouble on 16, Williams' tee shot on No. 17 landed in tall rough under a tree. He tried to punch out, but the ball went about 2 feet backward. Then he did punch out, hit a 6-iron approach about 20 feet past the pin and two-putted.
``One over for the day going to 16, I was very happy,'' Williams said. ``It (the golf course) got me today. You're going to have one round where more than likely things don't go your way.''
Canizares, son of Champions Tour golfer Jose Maria Canizares, shot a 77 in the first round but put himself contention with rounds of 70 and 71. He began the day six shots behind Williams.
Starting on the 10th tee, he played the front in 2-under, then made two birdies and a bogey on the back.
``I was just keeping my game and concentrating and not looking at the leaderboard,'' Canizares said. ``I didn't know my chances (after Tuesday). It's a long tournament. I made a good comeback and played well the last three days.''