Senior Harry Higgs
May 27, 2014
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (SMU) - The SMU Mustangs' run in the NCAA Championships came to a close on Tuesday as they lost to defending champion Alabama, 3-2, in the quarterfinals at the Prairie Dunes Country Club. By advancing to the eight-team playoff, SMU clinched its best national finish since placing eighth in 1972.
SMU held the lead at the turn, 3-2, with senior Harry Higgs, sophomore Bryson Dechambeau and freshman Andrew Buchanan all up one hole through 10. Buchanan held a two-hole lead through 12 holes over Alabama’s Robby Shelton, who is ranked No. 2 in the nation in the GolfWeek/Sagarin rankings. Shelton bounced back with consecutive birdies on 15 and 16 to take a one shot lead with two holes to go. Trey Mullinax knotted up his match with Dechambeau and then took a one hole lead into the 16th hole, where Dechambeau brought the match back to all-square.
Higgs fell behind to Tom Lovelady on hole 13, but rallied back to win three straight holes from 14-16 and also took 18 to seal a win in his final collegiate event. Dechambeau won his match with a birdie on 17 to go one-up.
In the program’s first NCAA Championship appearance since 2005, the Mustangs went from being the 24th seed out of 30 teams to advancing to the final eight-team playoff for the first time in school history. SMU head coach Josh Gregory knows that his team let an opportunity slip away, but still relished in how far his team came.
“We took the best team in the nation and perhaps of all-time to the wire,” Gregory said. “We had them on the ropes and truly felt like we should have won. To lose 3-2 is tough to swallow, but this has been a remarkable run and I’m so proud of these guys. They bought in, believed in what we were trying to do and finally believed that they are a great team.”
SMU’s five players at the NCAA Championship consisted of one senior, three sophomores and a freshman. Gregory is confident that his program is headed in the right direction.
“It’s a tough way to end but to get that opportunity to play and prove we could have beaten Alabama was awesome for our program,” Gregory said. “The future looks great for SMU golf.”
Higgs’ win over Lovelady (ranked 68th in the nation) capped off a fine senior season for the Kansas-native. Higgs totaled three top-five finishes and 15 round of par or better golf.
“It was a great finish for Harry; he has greatly changed the culture of our program,” Gregory said.
SMU advanced to the match play playoff after tying for seventh with No. 9 Illinois after three rounds of stroke play. The Mustangs spent the entire event in the top eight, and held on to advance by one stroke over No. 24 South Carolina. The Mustangs were the lowest-ranked team to advance to the final eight. Bryson Dechambeau tied for ninth individually at three-under par, giving SMU its first top-10 individual finish since 1994. Austin Smotherman (t-29) and Ryan Burgess (t-49) also recorded top-50 finishes in the 156-player field.