COLLEGE GROVE, Tenn. – The Texas Tech men's golf team caught fire early and put pressure on the top half of the field, but faltered late in the final round of the NCAA College Grove Regional, in College Grove, Tenn.
The Red Raiders, who started the day 15 shots back of fifth place, which was the necessary spot to reach in order to qualify for nationals, started the day hot. Tech recorded 12 birdies and just six bogeys on the first nine holes of the day, and the Red Raiders' top four scores translated into a score of 8-under par on the first nine.
Throughout the week, teams generally had more success on holes 1-9 than 10-18, so when Tech left the 18th green within eight shots of the cutline, the prospect of completing the comeback was very real, considering the leaders still had the tougher part of the course ahead.
"Obviously we started great, but we needed more birdies on 18, 1 and 2 than what we got to keep the round going," Texas Tech head coach Greg Sands said. "At the end of the day, it may not have mattered because we didn't play the tough holes well to finish the round. That's a tough stretch and the wind really started blowing at that point, but I thought if the guys hung in there through those holes we would have a shot. We just didn't quite get that done."
However, The Red Raiders went 3-over on No. 1, including a double bogey from Ivan Ramirez, who was flawless on the first nine holes of the day, birdieing 12, 13, 14 and 16 for a 4-under 32 halfway through the round.
From there, Tech went even-par on the par-five second hole, which had been yielding eagle and birdie opportunities all week. However, the Red Raiders went even-par on the difficult par-three third hole and 3-under on the par-four fourth to move to 7-under on the day and 7-over for the tournament. At this point, Tech was just five shots off the cutline and in sixth place.
After that, all momentum came to a halt as Tech finished the day by going 14-over on holes 5-9, which even after a score was dropped, meant 12 shots were added to the total. Tech crossed the finish line at 19-over for the tournament, in ninth place. The Red Raiders, after being well under par for most of the day, turned in a 5-over 293. No team put together an under-par round on Wednesday.
Hannes Ronneblad was well on track to be the top individual for the tournament and qualify for nationals, but his great week of golf was undone by going 6-over on the final five holes Wednesday. He finished even par for the tournament, in ninth place, three shots off the qualifying pace.
Ronneblad finishes his Red Raider career tied for fourth all-time with two individual wins, the lowest NCAA Regional round in school history, a 66 in 2015, and the seventh-lowest round in school history, a 65 at Bandon Dunes this season, where he won the individual title. He was also a part of four Red Raider team titles.
"Hannes has meant so much to this program over the past four years," Sands said. "He probably deserves better than what he's getting here at the end because he works so hard. You hate it for him. It was a pretty emotional ending for both of us to see him fall short of qualifying individually, but I told him I love him and he deserved better here. However, that's golf and life, too. Sometimes you don't get the great things you deserve, and that's certainly the case with Hannes."
Individually, Fredrik Nilehn shot a 1-under 71 to finish T57 overall (+13), Federico Zucchetti concluded his Tech career with a 3-over 75 to finish T57 (+13) as well, Hurly Long (+7) also shot a 75, finishing T34, and Ramirez finished with an even-par 72 to join Long in a tie for 34th at +7.
The Red Raiders are scheduled to return Nilehn and Long for their senior seasons in 2017-18, as well as Ramirez for his junior year. On top of that, Hayden Springer (junior in 2017-18) and Sandy Scott (sophomore in 2017-18), who both started in multiple tournaments this year, will return next season as well.
Ronneblad and Nilehn will be back in action June 9-11, representing Europe at the Arnold Palmer Cup, which will be held in Atlanta, Ga.