Despite medalist honors for Macon native Russell Henley, the Georgia men’s golf team fell short of its goal at the NCAA South Central Regional on Saturday in College Station, Texas.
While Georgia won’t be playing in the NCAA championship next month, Henley qualified as an individual. The nation’s top-ranked player fired a 3-under-par 69 on Saturday to finish at 9-under 207. Henley, one of the three finalists for the Ben Hogan Award on Monday, has won four tournaments this season, including each of his past two.
Needing a top-five finish to advance to the NCAA championship, the Bulldogs rallied in the final round to force a tie for fifth and a playoff with Baylor for the final spot. But Baylor won the playoff as the 10 players from the two teams replayed the par-4 18th.
“No question, this is a bittersweet day for us,” Georgia head coach Chris Haack said. “We are all very proud of Russell. He has been sensational all season and has really carried us on his back. At the same time, we’re disappointed that we are not moving on as a team. A tournament like this shows how critical every single shot is. We took over 1,000 shots this weekend, and we missed out by one. We made a great comeback to force the playoff, and I am proud of the guys for that, but we just ran out of steam.”
The NCAA championship is set for June 1-5 near Chattanooga, Tenn. Henley will be eligible to compete for the individual title in 54 holes. After three days of stroke play, the top eight teams will advance to match play to determine the team champion.
While Georgia didn’t qualify as a team, the Peach State’s other programs fared much better Saturday.
Augusta State finished second at its regional in San Diego, meaning that the NCAA championship field will include two Macon natives. Jaguars sophomore Taylor Floyd had his second straight 74 on Saturday and finished at 2 over to tie for 28th.
In Alpharetta, Georgia Tech finished third and Georgia Southern tied for fourth.
“We got better every day, and (Saturday) was really good; everybody was in the game,” Georgia Tech head coach Bruce Heppler said. “We had five guys under par for most of the day.
“You are moving on. You would like to win, but that’s not really the point. I think you try to (win), and when you try to, you get closer to the front and you don’t have to worry about it. I think this was a good round to go into Chattanooga with.”