The USF men's golf team entered the NCAA Championship Finals at the Eugene Country Club in Eugene, Oregon as the #15 seed in a 30-team field, but failed to make the 15-team cut yesterday. It was a disappointing effort after the first quarterfinals appearance in team history last season at The Concession in Bradenton.
The Bulls won the AAC tournament for the second year in a row, and finished fourth out of fourteen teams in the New Mexico regional to qualify for the Finals.
The team flew to Oregon early to get used to the three hour time zone difference and early on it looked like move paid off for sophomore Claudio Correa. He finished the first day with a 1-under 69 and in a tie for seventh place on the individual leaderboard.
Senior Chase Koepka, USF's all-time wins leader (4), finished Day 1 with a 2-over 72 and sitting just outside the Top 25. Fellow senior Aksel Olsen shot a 4-over 74. Starting on the back-nine, Olsen eagled the par-5, 548 yard 15th to get back to even par and stayed that way until he bogeyed the final four holes.
Junior Rigel Fernandes finished 6-over 76 and sophomore Christian DiMarco was right behind him with a 7-over 77.
As a team, the Bulls ended Day one 11-over par (291) and tied for 19th place.
Things didn't get much better for the Bulls on Day 2 as they fell even farther behind the cut line, shooting a combined a 14-over 294 and sat at +25 in 25th place, 10 shots behind safety.
Correa led the team again with another solid round, shooting a 2-over 72. In individual play he was tied for 24th place, six strokes behind the leader.
The biggest winner of the day was DiMarco as he shot a 3-over 73, cutting four strokes off of his day one total and he jumped from tied for 138th place to tied for 119th place. Koepka also shot a 3-over 73 on the day to be the steady force for the Bulls.
Fernandes again shot a 6-over 76 to put him at +12 and tied for 133rd place. Olsen had a day to forget as he shot an 8-over 78, tied for 133rd as well after two rounds.
The Bulls needed a miracle to crack top-15 after putting themselves severely behind the eight-ball.
Correa shot a 3-over 73 on Sunday for a 214 total to finish just one shot back from qualifying for the quarterfinals as an individual. He bogeyed the first two holes but was able to birdie twice on the front-9 to go into the turn at +1 for the day. He then bogeyed the 10th and 14th hole before getting a stroke back on the 15th and finished out par, bogey, par.
Koepka shot even-par 70 with a birdie on the first and one bogey on the front-9, followed by par on the other 16 holes. He finished with a 215 over the three days, just one stroke behind Correa.
Olsen shot a 7-over 77, 229 total, to end his collegiate career. It definitely wasn't the showing the reigning AAC Player of the Year wanted but he was key to every success the team had this year and will be missed.
Fernandes melted down on the back-nine as he shot 8-over 42 and finished 10-over 80, 232.
DiMarco turned in another great outing with a 1-over 71, 221 total. He improved by six strokes from day one to day three. He looks to have a bright future with the Bulls.
As a team, USF finished +36, tied for 26th place, nine strokes away from the cut line. They tied for fourth with 168 pars over the three days, but only managed 24 birdies combined. They managed the par-5's decently with 4.47 shots (-7) but it still placed them in the bottom half of that statistic.
Koepka, Olsen and Correa were named to the Division I PING All-Southeast Region team, and AAC Coach of the Year Steve Bradley received that award for the second time. Also Olsen was named AAC Player of the Year.
Koepka and Olsen will be sorely missed next year but they have set this team up for sustained future success. Though a disappointing finish, the outlook is bright for this team.