STILLWATER, Okla. – After a tough start to round three, the Texas Tech men's golf team is in third place through 54 holes and in good position relative to the cut at the NCAA Championship, in Stillwater, Okla.
Tech stumbled out of the gates at Karsten Creek, going a combined 9-over par on the first four holes of the day. Quickly, the Red Raiders saw themselves slipping on the leaderboard as other teams began to tee off.
Adam Blomme birdied Nos. 5 and 6, and Ivan Ramirez birdied the seventh to somewhat stop the bleeding, but Tech finished the front nine at 8-over on the day, and tied for sixth on the team leaderboard.
However, everything changed at the turn.
Tech made it through Nos. 10 and 11, one of the more challenging stretches on the course, at even par, and then started to paint the scorecard red.
Blomme, Kyle Hogan and Sandy Scott all birdied 12, and Scott birdied 13 as well. Blomme followed a bogey on 13 by draining a 20-foot birdie putt on 14. He would go on to birdie 16 as well.
Tech was able to go 1-over on the toughest hole on the course, No. 17, thanks to a pair of incredible up-and-downs from Blomme and Ramirez, each pitching from the rough and one-putting to make par. Then, the Red Raiders got to the 18th hole.
Hogan started it all by lasering his second shot within 8 feet of the cup. He burned the edge on his eagle putt, and tapped in for birdie and his second 74 of the week. Scott followed with a par, and then Blomme kicked one in for his seventh and final birdie of the day. He finished off a 2-under 70 with that putt, which turned out to be Tech's low round of the day.
Hurly Long needed an eagle to have his score count toward the team's tally, and did exactly that, firing his second shot within 10 feet before rolling in the downhill putt to finish off his 75. Ramirez finished the flurry by nearly holing out with his wedge from the rough before tapping in for birdie and a 71. Tech ended its day by carding a much-needed -5 on the 18th hole.
"We got off to about as bad of a start as you can," Tech head coach Greg Sands said. "But I saw a lot of heart. We've talked all week about fighting back, and sometimes it doesn't happen until the last hole of the day, and that's when it happened for us. That flurry at the end was huge. They were able to turn a poor-to-mediocre round into one that didn't lose much ground at all."
In fact, Tech gained ground on the field. Through 36 holes, Tech was nine shots clear of the cut to make it into match play, but now the Red Raiders are 13 shots clear of the cut. The field for tomorrow's final round of stroke play has been trimmed to 15 teams. The teams in the top eight spots on the leaderboard at the end of tomorrow's round will advance to the match play portion of the championship.
Individually, Ramirez is three shots off the lead, at -6. He will gun for Tech's first individual NCAA golf title tomorrow. Blomme and Long are tied for 22nd, at -1.
Tech will once again be in the featured pairing of the day, playing with Oklahoma State and Duke. To accommodate Golf Channel coverage, which will begin at 3 p.m., the Red Raiders will tee off at 12:50 p.m., on the first hole.
"We need to stay in the moment," Sands said. "We need to focus on what we can do. You can't control the leaderboard, but you can control how you think, your decision-making and your commitment to the shot. The guys learned a lot today. We'll play with Oklahoma State and their big crowds again tomorrow, but we hit some of our best shots in front of the biggest crowds today, so that's encouraging."
Fans can watch the Red Raiders live on the Golf Channel or via live stream at both golfchannel.com, and the Golf Channel app.