At 9:40 a.m. on Saturday morning, Matt Thompson stood on the tenth hole tee box at the University of Michigan Golf Course preparing to strike his opening drive of the NCAA Central Regional final round.

In order to move on to the NCAA Finals at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles, Calif. on May 29-June 3, Thompson would have to post a low score — something in the mid-to-high 60s — to have a chance. Otherwise, the round would be the senior’s last as a collegiate golfer.

After hitting his tee shot in the right rough, Thompson marched up the fairway with coach Chris Whitten by his side. They looked a little odd, seeing as they both sported nearly knee-high blue socks, a rarity amongst the other 74 competitors.

They were a sequel to the white ones that Thompson had donned on Friday, but this time his coaches got in on the action.

“(Whitten and assistant coach Nick Pumford) threw them on today, which I was actually kind of surprised to see,” Thompson said.

“Yeah, I don’t think (my teammates) jumped on that bandwagon,” he said, chuckling.

Thompson’s flashy wardrobe, however, was juxtaposed all week by his calm demeanor and his steady play on the course.

During Thursday’s first round, Thompson struck the ball well, hitting 14 out of 18 greens in regulation. He made two birdies and no bogeys on the front nine, making the turn at two-under par. After a string of missed birdie opportunities on the second nine, Thompson hit back-to-back wayward drives on holes 17 and 18, both resulting in bogey. He finished the round at an even-par 71, four strokes back of the leader, but solidly in a tie for fourth place.

“I was hoping a few putts would drop eventually but nothing really did,” Thompson said. “I hit a lot of downhillers I had to be pretty careful with. I couldn’t get real aggressive with anything.”

Because the pin locations were so difficult during the first round, low scoring was tough to come by.

On day two, however, the pins were much more accessible, and it showed early on in Thompson’s round. He promptly birdied holes 10 and 11 — his first two of the day — en route to a three-under 32 total for his first nine holes. The highlight came on the demanding par-four 18th hole, when Thompson hit his long approach shot over the water to within four feet of the cup. He easily drained the putt to move to three-under for the tournament.

From there, his round suddenly became riddled with missed opportunities. After narrowly missing birdie putts on holes one and two, Thompson took a calculated risk by attempting to cut the corner on the par-5 third. Instead of driving it down the fourth fairway like he planned, he hit a tree branch with his tee shot, eventually resulting in a bogey.

“I had so many chances that just didn’t go in,” Thompson said. “I hit it better (than on Thursday), putted better and got the most I could out of the round. I just missed a couple short ones and had a lot of 15 to 20 footers going over edges of the cup.”

Thompson finished his round with a respectable two-under 69, but was five strokes off the pace of the leaders. He would need a strong round on Saturday to have a shot at moving on to Riviera.

“If I do the same things I did today, I could easily put a 64 or a 65 up on the board. I just have to go out and do it, make more putts and play my game,” Thompson said.

But on Saturday, Thompson couldn’t replicate Friday’s hot start.

He made two bogeys on his first two par-fives (holes 11 and 1) and was two-over par through 10 holes. Add in the fact that North Carolina State’s Albin Choi came into the clubhouse with a three-under 68 and a 10-under par tournament total, and Thompson’s fate was sealed. He wouldn’t be moving on to the NCAA Finals.

Thompson finished his round with two birdies and two bogeys, carding a two-over 73. His total for the tournament was an even-par 213 total, good for a tie for 19th place.

“It was a grind all day,” Thompson said. “But what can you do? It’s golf — not every day is perfect. I still had fun.”

The reality that this was his last tournament as a Wolverine wasn’t sinking in yet.

“It’ll probably take a little bit to put it all into perspective,” Thompson said, choked up. “It was a lot of fun — finishing up on my home course. Not a lot of people get to play their last tournament at home, so that was great.”

Thompson finishes the season with a 72.06 scoring average, second only to his own record of 72.00 from the 2009-2010 season. He also finishes his Michigan career as the all-time leader in scoring average, with a mark of 72.79.

He plans on turning professional in three weeks, at the Michigan Open.

“I’m going to try to play as much as I can this summer, then start a full-time schedule in the beginning of 2013,” Thompson said.

He’ll be taking his high socks with him, too.

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