Four holes from the finish in the NCAA Greensboro Regional, it appeared Auburn's golf team would see its season come to a disappointing conclusion. But the Tigers finished with a remarkable flourish, playing the final four holes at 8-under par to finish fourth and qualify for the NCAA Championship.
Blayne Barber has numerous Auburn records in his sight/Todd Van Emst photos
Junior Blayne Barber, closing in on breaking numerous Auburn records, will lead the way today as the No. 4 Tigers open play at historic Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif. He had a hole-in-one in on the 16th hole in Auburn's regional rally.
"To be able to do that was awesome, but I just took it one shot at a time and hit a great one at 15," Barber said. "I happened to make a hole-in-one on 16 and then birdied 18 so it was a great finish.”
The road to the national championship begins today with a 30-team, 54-hole tournament that will be narrowed to eight teams. After the conclusion of the 54-holes, the NCAA individual champion will be announced and the eight remaining teams will begin a seeded match play tournament to determine the overall winner.
“It’s a great field as you can expect, and it is a great venue,” Auburn coach Nick Clinard said. “There’s a lot of history at Riviera Country Club, and we are looking forward to going out there. We’ve played well all year. I think we have been very consistent.
"We are a very deep team, we’re a very talented team and we look forward to getting out there and competing against the best programs in the country and see how we stack up.”
Barber will be in the top spot for the Tigers after finishing in fourth in the regional, his sixth top five finish of the year. With his scoring average of 70.73, Barber is set to break the 36-year old Auburn school record of 70.90 set by Buddy Gardner in 1976. Barber is also on pace to break school’s career scoring average of 72.38, was set by Lee Williams (2000-05).
Coming of a tie for fifth in the regional, All-SEC junior Dominic Bozzelli will be in the No. 2 position. Bozzelli began the regional with a 4-over 76, but rebounded with 2-under 70s in the second and third rounds to finish even-par. He is second on the team in scoring average with 72.03.
All-SEC sophomore Niclass Carlsson will take the third position and All-SEC senior Will McCurdy he fourth position. Freshman Michael Johnson rounds out the Tigers’ lineup after finishing the season with five top 20 finishes.
Auburn tees off today at 2:40 p.m. CDT.