Auburn men’s golf earns 4th best NCAA Championship finish


SUGAR GROVE, Ill. – The No. 20 Auburn men’s golf team earned its fourth-best NCAA Championship finish in school history placing 11th on Monday at Rich Harvest Farms after receiving a pre-round visit from former Auburn Heisman Trophy winner, Bo Jackson.

Entering the day a shot out of seventh to make the top eight for the match play portion to determine the NCAA Champion, the Tigers came five shots shy of advancing while having a round three shots better than No. 1 Southern California.

“We had a great year, had four wins and made it to the final round of the national championship,” said Auburn head coach Nick Clilnard. “We just didn’t have our best stuff. It played really difficult out there on the first nine holes with the wind blowing 30 mph. I’m really proud of our guys, really proud of my seniors.

“It was special (of Bo coming to talk to the team). Bo is a great man, an Auburn man. For him to come out and meet the guys, and some of the guys said that might be one of the coolest things they will ever experience in their lives.”

Freshman Jovan Rebula led Auburn, finishing in a tie for 23rd at 1-over after a final round 3-over 75. Sophomore Jacob Solomon tied for 32nd at 3-over with a 77. Solomon made the turn at 8-over on the back nine before carding four birdies on the front, his inward nine.

Senior Matt Gilchrest and sophomore Trace Crowe tied for 56th at 9-over as Gilchrest shot a 78 and Crowe an 82.

“We had a good season over a lot of months,” said Gilchrest. “We are proud of what we did this year. What I learned about playing at Auburn is it isn’t about me. I have a lifetime for it to be about me. This is about other people. I will be friends with those guys forever. They will do better than 11th next year and the years after. Auburn has set me up well for the future.”

Senior Ryan Benton tied for 62nd at 10-over with a 78.

“We had a pretty good season with four wins as a team,” said Benton. “We didn’t quite reach our goal this week. We still had a pretty good run and nothing to hang our heads about. This team has a really bright future.

“It was awesome (of playing for Auburn). I redshirted my first year so I had five years here. I grew up wanting to play for Auburn. It was everything I ever dreamed, and it was a fun career.”

No. 4 Vanderbilt won the stroke play portion at 13-under, including a final round 5-over 293, tying for the round’s low with No. 9 Oregon, which jumped from 13th to a tie for fifth. The next closest final round was 10 shots worse at 15-over on a day with 30 mph winds in Sugar Grove, Ill., 46 miles west of Chicago.

No. 17 Oklahoma finished second at 1-under followed by No. 8 Illinois (+2), No. 3 Oklahoma State (+3), No. 9 Oregon (+6), No. 1 Southern California (+23), No. 5 Baylor (+7) and No. 16 UNLV (+7) for the eight teams qualifying for Tuesday’s match play quarterfinals.

No. 6 LSU was in ninth, two shots off the cutline at 9-over ahead of No. 18 Virginia (+10), No. 20 Auburn (+12), No. 14 Texas (+14), No 25 Pepperdine (+28) and UCF (+29).

The other 15 teams in the NCAA Championship were cut after Sunday’s third round.

Ole Miss’ Braden Thornberry was the NCAA Championship medalist at 11-under, four shots ahead of Arkansas’ Mason Overstreet.

Auburn, which won four tournaments this season, is one of only six teams to appear in six consecutive NCAA Championships. It is Auburn’s 22nd overall appearance.

The Tigers’ best NCAA finish was a tie for seventh in 1994 in McKinney, Texas. Auburn finished eighth in 2003 in Stillwater, Okla., 10th in 1998 in Albuquerque, N.M., 11th this year and 12th in 2015 in Bradenton, Fla.

The match play quarterfinals and semifinals both take place on Tuesday at 7 am and 1:30 pm, respectively. The NCAA Championship match is on Wednesday at 2:10 pm.

Golf Channel will also televise live on Tuesday from 9:30-11:30 am and 2:30-6 pm and Wednesday from 2-6 pm.