And why would they? The Bruins had won one tournament in 11 starts during the season. They were ranked 20th by GolfStat entering the championship, and had finished an unremarkable seventh at the Pac-12 Championship in April They managed to squeak into the tournament with a couple of clutch birdies on the last hole at the NCAA Regional in San Antonio.
No one except the Bruins remembered how to make do-or-die putts on Monday afternoon. They had flown under the radar for three days.
Like he did earlier in the month, senior Anton Arboleda led a clutch-putting clinic in the last round. With his team teetering on the brink of elimination at six-over par, Arboleda knocked a wedge to within a couple of feet at the par 5 seventh hole (his 16th). He made the putt for eagle to drop the Bruins to four-over par in sixth place ahead of SMU, Illinois and South Carolina.
After that, more putts began to fall.
Finishing up his round of 67 (-3), sophomore Jonathan Garrick watched his third shot at the par 4 ninth (his 18th) roll several feet past the hole. The putt for par was crucial: a miss would drop the Bruins back into a tie for seventh, a make would keep the Bruins out of the deadlock. He made his five-footer for par and an inward side of 33 (-2). He finished in a tie for 42nd at 212 (+2).
Over at the eighth (17th), sophomore Lorens Chan had a five-footer for par with the same consequences. He confidently rolled it in and the Bruins remained at plus-five.
Earlier at the ninth, junior Preston Valder, who was five-over on the day, needed to drain a treacherous downhill seven-footer for par to keep the Bruins out of the tie. He slid it in.
Over at the eighth, Arboleda was staring at a blind second shot from the rough. His hard 9-iron hit the green and stuck – 30 feet away. As commentator Lanny Wadkins said, “He needed a club more, but he’s on the green.” The La Canada senior two-putted for par and moved on to the final hole.
Meanwhile at his final hole, Chan faced a six-foot par putt to preserve his round of 67 (-3). He made it, and the Bruins remained in sixth place. The par also gave him a 33 (-2) on the back nine, tying him for ninth place at 207 (-3).
Finally, Arboleda was ready to complete his round. His eagle at the seventh had dropped his score to two-over. He lined up a four-foot par putt to keep the Bruins in sole possession of sixth place. He made the putt, and the Bruins had advanced to play another day.
On Tuesday, UCLA meets LSU in the quarterfinals of the match play bracket. The teams tee off from the 10th hole at 7 a.m. The Golf Channel will begin its coverage of Tuesday’s competition at noon Pacific. A re-broadcast of Monday’s play will begin on The Golf Channel at 8 a.m. Pacific.