(VUAD) The Vanderbilt men’s golf team claimed their first-ever SEC Championship in dramatic fashion on Monday at the Seaside Course, winning their final match-play match, 3-2, over Texas A&M in Sea Island, Ga. Like the quarterfinal and semifinal matches on Sunday, this one also came down to the last match, with freshman John Augenstein going 23 holes to come away with the deciding victory, 1-up, over the Aggies’ Andrew Paysse.
Augenstein, who was also the last man standing on Sunday after a match-clinching 10-foot putt to take down the Gators in the semifinals, once again came through for the Commodores in the final. The freshman from Owensboro, Ky., held a two-hole advantage early in the round, but clutch play by Paysse brought the match to all square with an eagle on 15. The two then battled back and forth until the 23rd hole, which came on number 14, when Augenstein hit his tee shot to the right, which hit a tree on the right side of the fairway and then landed on the far side of the cart path. However, his ball was close enough to the cart path for relief. After the drop, Augenstein hit his third shot to within 12 feet and two-putted for par. Meanwhile Paysse, who striped his drive into the middle of the fairway, was short and right on his approach shot. After his chip on to the green, his par putt went left and the bogey gave the Commodores their first SEC Championship in 52 tries.
“The tee shot wasn’t all that bad,” said Augenstein, who was the only Commodore that was 3-0 in match play this weekend. “I missed my mark by about 10 yards and I ended up being next to the cart path, and I got a really solid drop. Coach Smith and I decided that anything short of the green would be an easy up and down to try and make par. With him in the fairway, I didn’t think he was going to make bogey. But, I absolutely pured it up and over the tree and it actually came down pretty close. The match was back and forth and I battled all day. It was a tough day, coming down the stretch in the playoff thinking about yesterday and those feelings. Although I won yesterday, I learned a lot and applied it today.
Vanderbilt, who led for most of the day, relied on Augenstein after Texas A&M charged their way back into the match. The Aggies’ Cameron Champ defeated Will Gordon, 2 and 1, and then Chandler Phillips won three of his last four holes against Matthias Schwab to win 1-up, and within minutes, the Aggies had cut what was an earlier 4-0-1 lead for the Commodores to all square. Vanderbilt’s two victories on the board before Augenstein’s heroics came from Patrick Martin, who easily won his match over Brandon Smith, 6 and 5, and Theo Humphrey, who never trailed in his match against Dan Erickson and won 3 and 2.
“This is a resilient group. None of the three matches were easy for us,” said Vanderbilt head coach Scott Limbaugh. “We fought and fought and fought and showed a tremendous amount of character. That’s what we’ve tried to build this program on - the right kind of foundation, the right kind of things. I’m just proud they get to experience what it’s like being a champion - they’re already champions - but to win a championship. My hat’s off to Texas A&M. It was unbelievable the amount of resiliency that they showed. It was kind of our week this week, you could kind of feel it. Once we knocked that first one down yesterday morning, you could kind of feel that the boys started believing.
"What a special, special day,” continued Limbaugh. “This is a big day for a lot of people that helped lay this foundation. We certainly want to celebrate and enjoy this. We also know that we have more steps to take on our journey. This is awesome and it certainly isn't the end.”
"We have a lot of fighters,” said Augenstein. "We have a lot of guys that battle and don’t give in. Coach is really big on that. You just never really know in match play, or in anything, what the other guy is going to do. There are so many things that go into it - the pressure and anything like that. I just think we have fighters on the team, battlers who believe in each other and love each other and want the best for everyone. That’s a big part of it - playing for each other."
The Commodores will now wait for their names to be called for NCAA Regionals, with the selection show slated for Thursday, May 4. The regionals will take place at one of six regional sites - Murfreesboro, Tenn., Baton Rouge, La., West Lafayette, Ind., Stanford, Calif., Austin, Texas, and Auburn, Wash.