LSU Gold

Connor Gaunt Shoots 69 in NCAA Golf; Advances to Final Individual Round Monday

Connor Gaunt and assistant coach Andrew Loupe watch a shot late in Sunday's third round.

by Kent Lowe
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Connor Gaunt Shoots 69 in NCAA Golf; Advances to Final Individual Round Monday

CARLSBAD, California – Connor Gaunt used a four-birdie run to start his final nine holes to put himself squarely into the individual competition and advance to Monday’s final round at the 2024 NCAA D1 Men’s Golf Championship at the OMNI La Costa North Course.

Gaunt fired a three-under par 69 to be one of the nine players to advance to the fourth round that are not in the 15 teams that qualified to continue team play.

Not only that, Gaunt moved up 15 spots in the standings to a tie for 12th and stands at even par 216 through 54 holes (75-72-69). More importantly, he is just five shots out of the tournament lead going into Monday, shared by Ohio State’s Adam Wallin (211)

LSU as a team shot their best round of the tournament to conclude their first team appearance since 2019. Although they did not make the cut, the Tigers played their best round of the 54 holes, posting 8-over par 296 for a three-day total of 903 (301-306-296). LSU moved up seven spots in the third round to 18th place. The Tigers finished 12 shots behind the cut line for 15th place to advance as a team to Monday.

Gaunt hit in the water off the tee on the 600-yard par 5 18th hole and couldn’t get up and down for par after taking an unplayable. That put him at 1-over for the round after playing the back nine (birdie on 12 and bogeys on 16 and 18). Then the magic began to happen for the Cabot, Arkansas product.

“After I made bogey on 18, (assistant coach Andrew) Loupe looked at me and said ‘You ready to have the best front nine that we’ve had all week?’ I said that I was ready. I kind of just hit every shot that I needed to on those first four holes and made some putts when I needed to. I made a 20-footer on one, four-footer on two, 15-footer on three and another four-footer on four.”

That translated to a birdie on the par four first (his 10th of the round), the par 5 second, the par 3 third and the par four eighth. Suddenly, Gaunt went from near the bubble for one of the nine spots to easily qualifying for Monday’s final round.

Gaunt bogeyed the par 5 seventh hole but came right back and birdied the behemoth eighth hole that was playing at some 240 yards. He missed a birdie putt on nine and made par to shot 4-under 32 on the front nine to finish with the 69.

After starting with the 3-over round, Gaunt played the next 36 holes in 3-under par (72-69).

“I’m really proud and I’ve worked hard to get here,” said Gaunt. “We’ve played in the harder wave all three days. This course played just as hard as it has all week and even harder, so to go out there and shoot a 69 today was special.”

On one more round on Monday, “I think if I go out there (Monday) and focus on me and do what I know that I can do and shoot something with a “6” in front of it, I got a good chance.”

Meanwhile the LSU team counted with Gaunt’s 69, a 75 from Lance Yates and 76s from Alex Price and Luke Haskew.

“It was a great team round,” said LSU interim head coach Andrew Nelson. “Obviously, we were chasing that 15th spot, but you want to leave this thing beating as many teams as you can. It was fun today to play a good round and caught seven teams and finished 18th, which is a good finish. We played 50 holes of good enough golf, but had a finish (Saturday) that wasn’t. They finished great today and it was fun to beat some teams that you want to beat all year.”

Of Gaunt’s performance, Nelson said: “I’m so proud of him. He’s been a great part of this team and been very close to me. He’s someone who I recruited when I got to LSU, so I’ve been with Connor from the start here. I’m so proud of that kid and love how he competes and grows. I know that he was frustrated multiple times during the weekend, but he kept himself composed and played well. Now he has a chance to go out there “Monday” and wear a “Nola” shirt for a national championship.”

After Wallin in the individual competition, Ben James of Virginia and Karl Vilips of Stanford are tied for second at 3-under par 213. Gordon Sargent of Vanderbilt, Hiroshi Tai of Georgia Tech and Max Herendeen of Illinois are at 2-under par 214. Five other golfers are at 1-under 215 before the group tied for 12th that includes Gaunt.

Gaunt’s round of 69 was topped by only three other golfers in the field of 156 on Sunday.

The nine individuals weren’t completely decided at nightfall as Ethan Evans of Duke, Andrew Swanson of Clemson and Braxton Watts of Utah will be in a three for two spots playoff starting on the 16th hole at 8:30 a.m. PDT.

Illinois is the 54-hole leader with a score of 2-under par 862 after a 6-under round of 282 on Sunday. Virginia is second at 4-over 868, five shots clear of Vanderbilt in third. Tennessee and East Tennessee State tied for 14th place to make the cut at 27-over 891.

Gaunt will be in the final group off hole 10 on Monday among the nine individuals at 1:08 p.m. PDT (3:08 in Baton Rouge). Live scoring for the event can be found on Golfstat.com and updates on “X” @LSUmensgolf and @LSUKent.

The round on Monday will be televised by the Golf Channel beginning at 3 p.m. PDT (5 p.m. in Baton Rouge). Bob Papa, John Cook and Steve Burkowski will be in the booth with Billy Ray Brown and Jim Gallagher, Jr. on the course.

LSU Scores
T12 Connor Gaunt – 75-72-69 – 216 E
T86 Luke Haskew – 74-77-76 – 227 +11
T113 Alex Price – 76-79-76 – 231 +15
T119 Jay Mendell – 76-78-78 – 232 +16
135 Lance Yates – 76-85-76 – 236 +20