Matt Thompson was too busy to attend his graduation ceremony on Saturday.
While his fellow peers were taking in Sanjay Gupta’s commencement speech at Michigan Stadium, the senior was hitting the links for his now-alma mater at the 2012 Big Ten Championships in French Lick, Ind.
He didn’t disappoint either.
Thompson (74-73-70-72) shot a one-over-par, four-round total of 289, six shots behind champion Luke Guthrie of Illinois — good for third place individually.
“I felt like I got off to a good start pretty much every round,” Thompson said. “(The) first two rounds, I ended up with a couple higher scores than I would’ve liked to.”
The same could be said for a majority of the competitors as well. As the first-ever neutral site of the men’s golf Big Ten Championships, the Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort gritted its teeth all weekend long. Dye’s course layouts frequently are given the moniker “Dye-abolical.”
“(It) was probably one of, if not the toughest course we’ve played all year,” Thompson said. “Every hole was a grind. There wasn’t really one hole where you stood on the tee box and you felt like you had to make birdie. Par was a good score on every hole.”
Following Saturday’s third round, Thompson was in sole possession of second place, seven strokes behind Guthrie, who shot a stellar five-under-par 67 in the round.
“Unfortunately, Luke (Guthrie) played so well in that third round,” Thompson said. “After he triple-bogeyed one of his first holes, he then had eight birdies. That’s just crazy.”
During Sunday’s final round, Thompson shot an even-par 72, complete with two birdies and two bogeys. Guthrie finished his tournament with a one-over 73, good for a five-under-par total, four strokes ahead of second-place finisher Sam Chien of Northwestern and six shots in front of Thompson.
“There was a pretty good gap for (Thompson) to make up at the start of the day,” said Michigan coach Chris Whitten. “This golf course does not really allow for someone to go out there and tear it up.”
It’s been an uphill battle for the Wolverines this spring. In order to make their fifth-straight NCAA Regional appearance, they needed to win the the tournament outright for an automatic bid. Ultimately, the Wolverines’ inexperience that made them fall short.
“We had four guys who had never played in the Big Ten Championship before,” Whitten said. “So, I think it was a learning experience for them. I know all of them wish that they had played better, and they’re capable of playing better.
“We’re just going to take this tournament and learn from it, and it’ll help us get motivated for the summer and for next year.”
Junior Miguel Echavarria was Michigan’s second-best scorer of the tournament, ending with a 21-over-par total and tied for 33rd. The other three Wolverines making the trip down to French Lick were freshman Noori Hyun, who finished 55th, freshman Andrew Wong, who finished 56th, and junior Matt Alessi, who finished 59th.
The Wolverines finished in 10th place in the team standings, one place behind their initial seeding for the tournament.
As for Thompson — Michigan’s record-holder for lowest scoring average in a season — his steady play all season long will more than likely warrant an individual berth at the NCAA Regional. On May 7, the NCAA will release its choices for individual at-large bids. If Thompson receives a bid, then he’ll be playing at his home course come mid-May.
“(Matt) has had a great year and he just keeps getting better,” Whitten said. “The thing about him is his consistency. He just shows up at every single tournament playing well and he did that again this week.”
The NCAA Central Regional will be held at the U-M Golf Course May 17-19.