- Torehan Sharman/Daily
BY MICHAEL WELCH
Daily Sports Writer
Published May 23, 2010
SOUTH BEND — After a dramatic final round of play in South Bend, the Michigan men's golf team waited for the final groups to finish at the NCAA Central Regional.
And after an extended wait time, the Wolverines found that they were just one stroke shy of advancing to the NCAA Championships, truly showing the slim margin of error in golf.
In the first round, junior Alexander Sitompul shot a career-best, four-under 66 to vault himself to the top of the individual leaderboard. Starting on the front nine at the Warren Golf Course, Sitompul birdied four of his first five holes and helped his team to shoot a five-over 285, just one stroke out of fifth place and a qualification for the championships.
“It’s really tough to force the issue on this course," Sitompul said after the first round. "Even if you are driving well, it is still playing 6,900 yards. Some of the flags out there were really tucked. I really think it depends on how patient the player is waiting to get the hot putter going."
On the second day, Sitompul’s play cooled down but sophomore Matt Thompson and junior Lion Kim stepped up for the Wolverines. Thompson shot a bogey-free, five-under 65 to put himself into a tie for the individual lead after the second round was suspended due to poor weather conditions.
Kim also posted a one-under 69 to rebound from his first round 74. Coupled with the four-over and three-over scores of freshman Rahul Bakshi and Jack Schultz, respectively, Michigan posted a one-over 285 to place fifth at six-over for the tournament.
After two rounds of play, Michigan was firmly in control of the final team qualifying spot for the NCAA Championships.
"The nice thing is we are in striking distance to win it," Michigan coach Andrew Sapp said after the second round. "If we just think about staying in the fifth spot, some bad things can happen. We want to go out there and assure ourselves by going out and competing to win this regional."
Unfortunately, the suspension of the second round caused the outcome to fall outside of Michigan’s control.
On the second day, Michigan was one of just three teams out of fourteen to finish their second round. On the final day, Michigan played their third round as most of the teams finished up their second round. As a result, Michigan completed tournament play more than an hour before the rest of the teams finished.
In the third round, Michigan started poorly and fell outside of qualification quickly. Thompson triple-bogeyed his first hole after hitting his second shot into the water on the tricky par-four, 10th hole. Kim bogeyed four of his first seven holes. Bakshi followed a double bogey on the 11th hole with a bogey on the 12th hole. Through seven holes of their final round, Michigan was 10-over and well out of qualification.
But, with their postseason lives on the line, the Wolverines showed their team resiliency.
After a tough starting nine for the team, Michigan’s players stepped up and got the crucial birdies that they needed to get back into contention. Sitompul and Kim each made three birdies and Bakshi added two birdies as well to help the Wolverines make up eight strokes. In the clubhouse, Michigan finished in a three-way tie for fifth place at eight-over, 848, with Northwestern and Iowa.
At this point, there was nothing Michigan could do but watch as the rest of the teams finished up their round. And in the final group, LSU took the last qualifying spot with a seven-over 847, one stroke ahead of Michigan.
But, Thompson wasn't finished for the day. After fighting to post a two-over 72 in a round that included a triple and double bogey, Matt Thompson finished tied for the low individual score with Virginia Tech’s Marshall Bailey. On the playoff hole, Thompson encountered a difficult lie behind the green and double-bogeyed, losing the playoff to Bailey.
Even though the Wolverines' season ended on Saturday, it is clear there are positives to draw from play this weekend.
“I’m really proud of how they fought,” Sapp said. “They never gave up and played well down the stretch. To get eight strokes back after a bad start just showed a lot of character.”