West Virginia golfer Mark Goetz fell just short of advancing to the NCAA Championships in Arizona on Wednesday, finishing two strokes behind Purdue’s Cole Bradley at the NCAA Regional at The Sagamore Club in Noblesville, Indiana.
Goetz entered the final round of the three-day, 54-hole competition tied for fourth among all golfers and battled for the lead right up until the final hole — but Bradley’s bogey-free round and clutch up-and-down to birdie No. 18 signed the Boilermaker’s ticket to the finals.
“I’m so proud of Mark,” coach Sean Covich said. “He played great this week. He’s always been talented, but he has matured these past two seasons and has developed into one of the best players in the country. The reason he has success is because of his preparation and his process.”
The Mountaineer’s lead was already threatened by the time he teed off as Purdue’s Joe Weiler started his round with three straight birdies. Ross Steelman of Missouri started his round hot as well, birdieing two of the first four holes.
Nonetheless, Goetz was able to get himself some breathing room, opening the round with a par and two birdies.
Goetz recorded just a single above-par hole on the front nine on No. 4, when he bogeyed the 181-yard par-5. Normally, a golfer would be pretty confident heading into the turn, but he still had opponents breathing down his neck as Bradley and Steelman notched bogey-free front nines — with Steelman catching fire for a 5-under front.
The lead returned to the Mountaineer at the turn as he birdied No. 9.
By the back nine, the competition had essentially become a two-horse race between Goetz and Bradley. Both golfers opened the round with a pair of pairs on 10 and 11, although the WVU man had to work a little harder for his to fall.
Goetz was able to stick his nose ahead of the overall leaderboard with a birdie on 12, with things starting to look up for the Mountaineer. At the same time, though, Bradley also notched a birdie on No. 12 — the first of three straight as he began to overtake Goetz.
Bradley took the lead for the first time after the 14th hole as his partner bogeyed — but Goetz was able to rally and tie the competition up with a birdie on No. 15.
The final two holes proved to be the ultimate decider for the competition. Goetz scored a par on No. 17, but it couldn’t beat Bradley, who sniped his tee shot on the par-3 about five feet from the hole for an easy birdie to go ahead a stroke.
Goetz put himself in excellent position to knot the tournament back up on the par-5 18th hole, parking his approach shot near the hole for a make-able birdie putt. Bradley once again bested Goetz, however, as he put his second shot over the green for an easy green in regulation from behind.
Bradley took advantage, utilizing his short game to get an even easier birdie putt than that of Goetz.
Goetz ended up recording a par on the final hole, while Bradley finished the birdie for the victory with a 7-under round and 10-under for the event, the lowest score among all golfers in the field. WVU’s man shot 4-under on the day, finishing 8-under for the regional.
Goetz completes his record-setting season for WVU golf as the first individual from the program to qualify for an NCAA Regional, one day after shooting the lowest round at the NCAA Tournament in program history. He will return for his fifth season with the Mountaineers, according to Covich.
“I’m so excited about next year’s team with Mark coming back for a fifth season,” he said. “I know we didn’t have the team here this week, but Mark felt like he was playing for us all, sending a message of what to expect out of the Mountaineers next season.”
Bradley heads to the NCAA Championships at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona to begin competition on May 28.
On the team side, Texas took the crown in Noblesville, punching their ticket to Scottsdale as well with a team score of 20-under. They beat out Tennessee and North Carolina, who finished five strokes back at 15-under.
The Longhorns, Volunteers and Tar Heels will all head to the Championships, along with UAB (5-under), North Florida (1-under) and Arkansas State (10-over) as the top six teams from the regional.