Peterson Runner-Up After SEC Golf Playoff; Team 5th

by Will Stafford (@WillStaffordLSU)
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Peterson Runner-Up After SEC Golf Playoff; Team 5th

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – One hole is all that separated LSU senior All-American John Peterson from an SEC individual championship, as he waited anxiously in the clubhouse clinging to a one-shot lead after wrapping up the 2011 SEC Men’s Golf Championships with an even-par 70 in Sunday’s final round and a 1-under 209 for 54 holes played at Sea Island Golf Club’s Seaside Course.

The Ben Hogan Award candidate, who held the individual lead after both the first and second rounds with scores of 2-under 68 and 1-over 71, watched both Phillip Choi and Andres Echavarria of Florida and Robin Wingardh of Tennessee play the 54th hole of the championship just one shot back in the standing and needing a birdie to force a sudden-death playoff for the crown.

While Choi and Wingardh each made par at the par-four 18th hole, Echavarria sank his birdie putt to come back into the clubhouse deadlocked with Peterson at 1-under par for the championship.

That is when the two returned to the tee box at No. 18 to begin a sudden-death playoff to determine which would emerge as the SEC individual champion of the 2010-11 season.

With each competitor hitting an iron onto the green to set up birdie putts, Echavarria two-putted for par to clinch the championship, while Peterson three-putted for bogey to wrap up his best career SEC finish with an individual runner-up performance. Peterson also finished in third place as a sophomore in 2009.

Peterson came up just shy of ending a 24-year drought as LSU’s first SEC champion since PGA Tour star David Toms took home the prestigious title in 1987 during his sophomore season.

Nevertheless, Peterson surely wrapped up a second career First-Team All-SEC honor and third career All-America selection, which would add his name alongside Eddie Merrins (1952-54), B.R. McLendon (1965-67), Rob McNamara (1984-87) and Toms (1986-89) as the squad’s only three-time All-Americans.

“We’re obviously very proud of John and what he accomplished this weekend. We would’ve loved for his playoff to end with a different result,” said LSU head coach Chuck Winstead. “That in no way takes away from his performance this weekend. He’s most assuredly going to be an All-American for the third time at LSU, which is something that only four other players have ever done in our program.

“For someone who finished in the Top 10 at the NCAA Championships last year and has already earned a First-Team All-SEC and two All-America honors, what John has done with this finish this weekend at the SEC Championships is cement one of the best collegiate careers at LSU. That’s saying something because we’ve had some tremendous players come through our program over these many years.”

Peterson joined fellow senior All-American Andrew Loupe in leading the Tigers to a fifth-place finish for this year’s SEC Championships with a 54-hole team score of 25-over par 865. That included a final-round score of 2-over 282 as LSU moved up one spot from sixth place to fifth place during the round.

The Tigers have now finished in the top five of the team standing at the SEC Championships with each of the last three years, following a tie for fourth place in 2009 and a fifth place in 2010.

The Florida Gators returned to the top of the leaderboard for the first time since 2003 as they won the 14th SEC team championship in their program’s history with a winning score of 8-over 848 for three rounds.

Alabama followed six shots back in second place at 14-over 854, while Tennessee took third place overall at 16-over par 856 and defending champion Georgia finished in fourth place at 22-over par 862. Finishing behind LSU in the team standings were Arkansas (870) in sixth place and Auburn (872) in seventh place.

Loupe earned a top-10 finish at the SEC Championships for the second-straight season after firing a team-low of 2-under 68 in Sunday’s final round for a total of 2-over 212 for the weekend. Loupe teed off in the final round in a tie for 14th place after opening the event with scores of 3-over 73 and 1-over 71.

The Baton Rouge native solidified his first career First-Team All-SEC honor a year ago after earning a tie for fourth place overall at the SEC Championships, also held at the Seaside Course.

Andrew Loupe certainly didn’t play his best this weekend, but he battled for 54 holes and found a way to get back in the Top 10 in the toughest conference championship in the country,” Winstead said. “It is hard for me to put into words exactly what John and Andrew have meant to this program in leading our team to where we are today. They just continue to perform at the highest level.”

Junior Sang Yi and freshman Andrew Presley added matching scores of 2-over par 72 toward LSU’s team total on Sunday afternoon as Yi finished in a tie for 31st place at 11-over 221 and Presley finished in a tie for 36th place at 13-over 223 in his first career appearance at the SEC Championships.

Senior Clayton Rotz carded a best of 7-over 77 for the weekend during Sunday’s final round to finish up a tie for 59th place in the individual standings with a 54-hole score of 29-over 239.

“We need better play at the bottom of our lineup. That’s the bottom line,” Winstead said. “We’ve played better as a team this year, and it’s when we have had better play at the bottom of our lineup. We didn’t see that enough this week to win a conference championship. That’s always our goal as a program. It is now a time for us to take some time off before looking ahead to the postseason.

“We’re going to continue to work hard these next few weeks and get ready to compete at regionals. We’ll have a week off for Spring Break and then come back and prepare for the next challenge.”

The No. 8-ranked Tigers will now await their selection to NCAA Regional play, which will be held at one of six sites nationwide during May 19-21. According to the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championships Handbook, the NCAA Selection Committee will announce its regional selections in a conference call with programs from across the country on Monday, May 9, at 9 a.m. CDT.

Teams finishing in the top five of the final team standings at each of the six NCAA Regional sites will get an opportunity to compete at the 2011 NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championships, held May 31-June 5 at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.

2011 SEC MEN’S GOLF CHAMPIONSHIPS – FINAL ROUND RESULTS

TEAM SCORES (Par 840)
1. Florida 285-282-281 – 848 +8; 2. Alabama 291-285-278 – 854 +14; 3. Tennessee 286-287-283 – 856 +16; 4. Georgia 292-288-282 – 862 +22; 5. LSU 292-291-282 – 865 +25; 6. Arkansas 286-294-290 – 870 +30; 7. Auburn 292-294-286 – 872 +32; 8. Ole Miss 303-291-290 – 884 +44; 9. Kentucky 293-297-295 – 885 +45; 10. South Carolina 294-295-298 – 887 +47; 11. Mississippi State 299-310-293 – 902 +62; 12. Vanderbilt 299-308-299 – 906 +66.

TOP 10 INDIVIDUALS (Par 210)
T1. Andres Echavarria, Florida, 70-70-69 – 209 -1*; T1. John Peterson, LSU, 68-71-70 – 209 -1; T3. Phillip Choi, Florida, 69-71-70 – 210 E; T3. Robin Wingardh, Tennessee, 69-72-69 – 210 E; 5. Bank Vongvanij, Florida, 72-70-69 – 211 +1; T6. Andrew Loupe, LSU, 73-71-68 – 212 +2; T6. Russell Henley, Georgia, 71-72-69 – 212 +2; T6. Danny Keddie, Tennessee, 71-71-70 – 212 +2; T6. Cory Whitsett, Alabama, 74-68-70 – 212 +2; T10. Bud Cauley, Alabama, 72-73-68 – 213 +3; T10. Hunter Hamrick, Alabama, 71-74-68 – 213 +3.

LSU SCORES
T1. John Peterson, 68-71-70 – 209 -1
T6. Andrew Loupe, 73-71-68 – 212 +2
T31. Sang Yi, 74-75-72 – 221 +11
T36. Andrew Presley, 77-74-72 – 223 +13
T59. Clayton Rotz, 84-78-77 – 239 +29

* – Won SEC individual championship in a one-hole, sudden-death playoff