NORMAN, Okla. (Seminoles.com) – A climactic finish to the Norman NCAA Men’s Golf Regional did not fall in Florida State Men’s Golf’s favor on Wednesday afternoon. The fourth-seeded Seminoles had their impressive six-year NCAA Championship Finals appearance streak snapped by just one stroke at the Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club.
Florida State finished with a 2-under 862 over its three rounds and jockeyed back and forth between 15th-ranked Arkansas, 46th-ranked Virginia, 10th-ranked Auburn and No. 33 Pepperdine over the final nine holes. A crucial birdie by freshman John Pak on his second-to-last hole had FSU up by a stroke at 2-under and hanging onto the fifth spot, but the Razorbacks surged ahead after four of their five golfers made birdies on the same eighth hole – a par 5, 600-yarder.
With Arkansas clinging to a 1-stroke lead over FSU for the final fifth spot, it came down to Alvaro Ortiz’s approach on the final par-4, 435-yard ninth hole. Ortiz would par the hole to put an end to FSU’s run.
“We played some good golf this week,” FSU head coach Trey Jones said. “All Seminoles should be very proud of these guys. They represent us in a first-class way every day. I am proud to be their coach.”
Wednesday effectively ended the celebrated career of redshirt senior Harry Ellis, who prepares for the upcoming U.S. Open as an amateur on June 14-17. The England native concludes his career with a final year that included his first two wins as a Seminole, enjoying a remarkable turn-around in five years’ time to become an All-American.
Once again, Pak proved to be up to the test in what was easily defined as pressure golf. He led the Seminoles with five birdies, including his big one on the eighth hole, and tied for seventh overall at 5-under. With just one golfer from a non-qualifying team advancing to the NCAA Championship Finals, Pak was one stroke behind only Pepperdine’s Joshua McCarthy.
Sophomore Jamie Li’s breakthrough year was a highlight to FSU’s strong season. He tied for 26th at 1-over and shot a 2-under 70 on Wednesday, going bogey-free with two birdies as well.
Junior Bennett Baker capped another good year by tying for 33rd at 3-over, shooting a 1-over 73 in the final round. He birdied the par-4, 435-yard seventh hole that gave FSU a chance at advancing.
Junior Corey Carlson tied for 44th at 6-over, while Ellis tied for 47th at 7-over.
The Seminoles rode a strong back-nine performance which included shooting 5-under collectively among counting scores. But unlike Tuesday’s smooth trek through the front nine, FSU had its difficulties with four birdies to seven bogeys among the counting scores.
Nonetheless, FSU put itself in a winning position when it finished the round. The problem was Arkansas had more holes remaining and capitalized on its chances, especially with a par-5 among the final holes.
Tournament host Oklahoma won its regional at 14-under, followed by BYU (-13) and UNF (-13). Auburn (-3) and Arkansas (-3) round out the five advancing clubs.
With Ellis being the team’s lone senior, the future of Florida State Men’s Golf continues to shine bright – especially with a dominant young talent like Pak to build around.