Razorbacks will play for SEC golf championship

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Saturday, April 27, 2019
Luis Garza of Arkansas hits a tee shot during the Valspar Collegiate Invitational at the Floridian on Monday, March 18, 2019, in Palm City, Florida (AP Photo/Scott Halleran)
Luis Garza of Arkansas hits a tee shot during the Valspar Collegiate Invitational at the Floridian on Monday, March 18, 2019, in Palm City, Florida (AP Photo/Scott Halleran)

FAYETTEVILLE — The University of Arkansas men’s golf team pulled off a pair of upsets Saturday at the SEC Championships and will play defending champion Auburn on Sunday morning for the conference title.

The Razorbacks notched 3-2 victories over No. 4 Vanderbilt and Texas A&M with both matches extending into extra holes at the Sea Island Golf Club in St. Simons Island, Ga.

“To win in extra holes, both matches, is pretty overwhelming,” Arkansas Coach Brad McMakin said. “I think it’s great for our program, and it’s something these guys will remember for the rest of their lives.”

Arkansas will shoot for its second SEC championship Sunday at 6:30 a.m. against No. 13 Auburn on the Seaside Course. The championship match will be televised by the SEC Network. The Tigers downed Arkansas 3-2 in the quarterfinals of match play at Sea Island last year.

Junior Luis Garza and freshman Julian Perico both went 2-0 against the Commodores and the Aggies, while juniors Tyson Reeder and William Buhl won one match apiece.

The pivotal pairing in the Arkansas-Texas A&M afternoon match came in the third spot, with Garza facing Brandon Smith.

Garza held the lead most of the match, but Smith pulled all square with a par on the par-3 17th hole as Garza bogeyed. The pair halved the 18th to force extra holes.

Meanwhile, Perico was closing out a 3 & 2 victory over Dan Erickson in the fourth spot, and the Aggies’ Chandler Phillips was edging junior Mason Overstreet 1 up, leaving Garza and Smith as the only pairing left on the course.

Garza made par on the next hole while Smith bogeyed to clinch the victory.

“He played so good this morning against Will Gordon [of Vanderbilt],” McMakin said of Garza. “I think he made eight 3s in a row starting on No. 7. For him to come out and give us that kind of performance and back it up with another win this afternoon, I can’t say enough about him.”

In the first pairing, Buhl raced out to a 6-hole lead over Walker Lee on the front nine, then held solid the next four holes to post a 6 & 5 rout.

In the second spot, the Aggies’ Sam Bennett posted a 2-up victory over Reeder.

Auburn advanced to the finals with 3-2 win over Kentucky, highlighted by medalist Javon Rebula’s 21-hole win over F. Allen Meyer.

The Tigers captured the top seed for match play by racing to 24 under through three rounds of stroke play for a 16-stroke edge over Vanderbilt.

“They’ve got a great team,” McMakin said of Auburn. “What they shot in stroke play was as good of golf as I’ve witnessed in 25 years of coaching. That last round was maybe the best round I’ve ever seen.

“Match play, you’ve just got to win three of them, so hopefully we can put the right group together, come out and have a great day tomorrow.”

The Razorbacks reached the semifinals with a 3-2 victory over No. 4 Vanderbilt in a match filled with late drama, including two extra-hole victories.

Reeder overcame a three-hole deficit through eight holes to Harrison Ott by winning Nos. 9, 14 and 18, then prevailed on the first extra hole.

Garza had claimed a 5-up victory over Gordon earlier, while Overstreet lost 3 up to Patrick Martin in the leadoff spot and Buhl fell 2 up to John Augenstein in the fourth pairing.

With the match heading toward 2-2, Perico lost a two-hole lead to Reid Davenport, who birdied No. 17 and parred No. 18. Perico rebounded by winning the first extra hole to claim the match.

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