TEXARKANA, Ark. — Louisiana Tech senior Ben Robinson had been leaving his putts short on the greens all throughout Wednesday’s championship final match. At least, he did until it absolutely mattered. Robinson sank a 15-foot putt for the title to win his match and secure the 2016 Conference USA Men’s Golf Championship for the Bulldogs with a 3-2 upset over 38th-ranked UAB.
The made putt with the title on the line capped a remarkable comeback. Moments before, true freshman Jacob Wyatt, a former Benton standout, rallied back from 3 down as he won his last four holes to win and tie the match at 2-2. Wyatt made that comeback with his mother, sister and cousin in attendance. Quite the present on his mother’s birthday.
“Nobody believed we were able to do this except for us,” Wyatt said. “When the putt went in UAB was shocked and it was one of the most unbelievable moments of our lives.”
The 1 up Wyatt win left Robinson 1 up on UAB’s Martin Rowher with 2 to play. Robinson shorted his first putt – a 50-foot attempt – by 15 feet. But Rowher would miss his next putt, allowing Robinson with a chance to clinch the match and the title.
“I remember thinking that if I made the putt then I wanted to maintain my composure to show respect for UAB because they are such a great team,” Robinson said. “But once the ball dropped I couldn’t contain my excitement and I was immediately tackled by the rest of the team.”
Wyatt wasn’t the only one to make a comeback, the entire team was forced to. UAB took a 2-0 lead in the match before the Bulldogs rattled off three consecutive, nerve-wracking points.
The first point for the Blazers was conceded early as Luke Neeley fell to UAB’s Will Cannon, 6&5. No other point was easily won, on either side.
Chuck Spears went back and forth the entire round with Taylor Eyster, the C-USA Championship Medalist that won the playoff against LA Tech’s Victor Lange at the conclusion of stroke play Tuesday. In a match that changed lead changes/all squares (ties) seven times, Spears was 1 up thru 13 before Eyster would win two consecutive holes and then hold on through the end of the round for the win.
Down 2-0, the Bulldogs came charging back. First came Wyatt’s four consecutive hole wins to finish 1 up. The Benton High School product birdied holes 15 through 17 before a par clinched his match win on the 18th green after UAB’s Lee Hodges carded an unlikely par. Unlikely because Hodges entered the week as the league’s top-ranked player at No. 137.
“Somewhere inside the little kid in me kind of came out and it was pure excitement and nervousness. I just ended up getting it down,” Wyatt said. “Hit a great tee shot on 18 to the middle of the green and two-putted.”
Then senior Victor Lange won 3&2 after carding a par on hole 16 while UAB’s John Hayden bogeyed. All of a sudden the Bulldogs and Blazers were tied, 2-2, with one match to play.
Rowher wasn’t making it easy, though. Robinson was 3 up thru 12 before Rowher won hole 13 to cut Robinson’s lead to two and then took advantage of a Robinson bogey on hole 16 to pull within one with two to play. Then came Robinson’s heroics on the 17 green.
“Great excitement with the last 36 years all into one moment and here we go,” said Jenkins, who is in just his second season with the program. “We’re going to the postseason.
“It was going to take a lot of great golf and some breaks, but I thought leading into the week we had a great chance. I talked to the guys about belief. As the week progressed, shooting a good score in round one of stroke play and each day progressing forward, I think the belief level increased more and more and more.”
The thrilling 3-2 victory came just hours after Louisiana Tech, the second seed in the playoff, edged North Texas. The third-seeded Mean Green battled the Bulldogs, forcing Victor Lange to play 20 holes in the semifinal round before securing the win. The morning win came after a resumption as darkness halted play Tuesday evening.
With the win, Louisiana Tech has automatically qualified for the 2016 NCAA Regionals on May 16-18. The NCAA Men’s Golf Selection Show will broadcast live on the Golf Channel on Thursday, May 5 at 9:30 a.m. The Bulldogs will be selected for one of six regional sites located in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Kohler, Wisconsin; Nashville, Tennessee; Stillwater, Oklahoma; Tuscaloosa, Alabama or Tucson, Arizona.
— Louisiana Tech Sports Information