May 30, 2003
Quotes| Championship Tradition
Stillwater, OK – D.J. Trahan fired a final round 74 and Jack Ferguson clinched the team championship with a par on the 18th hole, leading Clemson to a team score of 1191 and its first NCAA Golf Championship. Clemson became the first school in NCAA history to win its conference championship, NCAA regional title and National Championship in the same year. The Tigers started and ended the year as the number-one ranked team in the nation.
It was Clemson’s first NCAA Championship since the fall of 1987 when Clemson won the NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship. It was the school’s fourth National Championship overall. Clemson also won the 1984 NCAA Soccer championship and the 1981 college football National Championship. It was the 54th tournament victory of Larry Penley’s 20-year Clemson coaching career, but his first NCAA title.
The Tigers won the title by just two shots over host school Oklahoma State, who had won nine previous championships, including eight under current head coach Mike Holder in the last 30 years. Clemson finished with a 72-hole total of 1191, 39 over par. The Tigers were two strokes better than the host Cowboys, who were 41 over. UCLA finished third with an 1197 total, while Wake Forest and Florida tied for fourth at 1198. The ACC was well represented as, North Carolina finished ninth at 1216, Georgia Tech was 11th at 1218 and NC State was 15th at 1224.
Ferguson, playing in his first NCAA national tournament, finished the tournament in 19th place with a 298 total after a final round 77. Trahan finished 22nd, his fourth top 25 NCAA national tournament finish, the only player in Clemson history to achieve that. He had a 299 total after his team best 74 in the final round. Matt Hendrix and Gregg Jones were both tied for 35th at 303, while Ben Duncan had a 309 total and tied for 52nd.
Clemson and Oklahoma State started the day just one stroke apart. The Cowboys immediately took the lead after just three holes, as Clemson struggled at the outset. Clemson’s first three players all fell behind against their Oklahoma State playing partners. Clemson trailed by four strokes with its number-five player, Duncan, approaching the ninth tee.
But, Duncan started a birdie barrage. In all, Clemson players who had their score count on Friday were four under par. Overall, Clemson was six under as a team on the eighth and ninth holes combined, turning a four-shot deficit into a four shot lead. Oklahoma State tied the count many times over the next four holes, as there were scoring swings on virtually every hole.
Clemson finally got a six-shot advantage with just two holes to play. Clemson was 37 over for the tournament and Oklahoma State was 43 over with Jack Ferguson playing the 17th hole. But, Ferguson double bogeyed the hole when he drove his ball in the rough. When Oklahoma State’s Hunter Mahan birdied the same hole, the margin was cut in half.
Mahan had eagled the 18th hole the last two days. With that in mind, Clemson needed a par from Ferguson to clinch the team title. With over 1000 people lining the fairway and by the green, Mahan hit his approach shot to within 15 feet for eagle. Ferguson hit his second shot 70 yards short of the green. But, his third shot was to within 18 feet. Ferguson’s approach putt came six inches to the left of the cup. After Mahan missed his eagle attempt, Ferguson tapped in to give the Tigers a two-shot victory.
The Tigers had a 303 team score on Friday, ironically, its high team score of the season. It was just the second time in the last 66 team rounds that Clemson failed to break 300, but it was good enough on the difficult Karsten Creek Course. Trahan showed his mental toughness for the second straight day. He had played the first eight holes on Thursday in three over par before finishing at even par 72. On Friday, he was four over after eight, but got his score back to a team best 74 thanks to a birdie at 18, his final college hole.
Gregg Jones had gotten off to a poor start all week, but birdied the first hole on Friday. He played consistently throughout, including a solid par on the difficult 17th hole. He finished with a 75 for the third time his four rounds on the Karsten Creek 7301 yard layout.
Matt Hendrix struggled on Friday with an 80, but his score counted three of the tour rounds, including a 69 on Thursday, the low round of the event by a Clemson golfer, the only round in the 60s. Ben Duncan fired a 77 to go with Ferguson’s 77. After an opening 85, Duncan’s score counted towards the Clemson team total each of the last three rounds. The Clemson graduate’s score counted in NCAA national play six times in his eight rounds over the last two years.
The victory was the sixth win of the year for the Tigers, a single season record. Four previous Clemson teams had won five tournaments. It also marked the seventh straight top 10 finish and third straight top three finish for the Clemson program. It marks the first time since the 1980-86 era that a Clemson program had posted seven straight top 10s. The men’s tennis team achieved that distinction under current head coach Chuck Kriese.
The victory also marked the fifth time in the last seven years that Clemson had finished higher in the final NCAA tournament than Oklahoma State. Clemson is now 18-6 against the Cowboys in head to head competition over the last four years, including 2-0 at the Cowboys home course.
Clemson finishes the season with a 124-8-3 record against top 25 opposition, an incredible 93 percent winning percentage, by far best in the nation and best in Clemson history.
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