Senior Kevin Chappell made a par on the 18th hole to give UCLA a one-shot victory May 31 at the 111th NCAA Men's Golf Championship, hosted by Purdue at its Kampen Course in West Lafayette, Ind.
Chappell won the individual title and led the fourth-ranked Bruins to their first men's golf title since 1988. He finished at 2-under 286 and was the only player in the field under par for the event. He became the first UCLA player to win NCAA medalist honors.
"The feeling I have right now is better than anything," said Chappell. "To win individually is great, but it becomes even more special because the team also won. I can't say enough about this team. All season long we've always been there to pick each other up and that's what championship teams do."
In Friday's third round, Chappell made a round-saving bogey from knee-high rough at the 18th hole. That score helped him post a cool 68 (-4) and assume first place entering the final round. At the time, he called it "the best bogey of my life." He amended that statement on Saturday with a bogey that preserved the Bruins' national championship.
On Saturday at the 71st hole, a 230-yard par 3 over water, Chappell dumped his tee shot in the drink. His third shot from the drop area skirted 22 paces past the hole -- almost a certain double-bogey.
"I knew he could get it up and down from there," said Head Coach Derek Freeman. "I figured we'd take [a] five and move on to 18."
The two-time All-American chipped it in.
"That was the best bogey of my entire life," he said.
Chappell had struggled most of the week at the 18th. In the second round, he came to the brutish 484-yard par 4 at one-under par. A double-bogey gave him a 73 (+1). His bogey there Friday prevented him from carding a 67 (-5).
And on Saturday, he knew a par would preserve the Bruins' precarious one-shot lead and their championship dreams. His tee shot found the fairway, leaving him 189 yards to the green. His second shot landed 20 feet above the hole. He barely missed making a birdie, but tapped in for par before the entire UCLA entourage charged the green to embrace their senior leader.
"This is huge for our school which prides itself on national championships," said Freeman. "Now, I want to figure out how to get better because I sure like this feeling."
In team scoring UCLA shot 1,194 (+42), including 306 (+18) in the final round. Defending champion Stanford placed second at 1,195 (+43), a shot ahead of tournament favorite USC. Oklahoma State finished fourth at 1,200 (+48), followed by Clemson at 1,201 (+49). Washington was the fourth Pac-10 school to finish in the Top 10, capturing seventh place at 1,208 (+56).
Junior Erik Flores and freshman Philip Francis tied for 33rd at 305 (+17). Francis posted a final round 76 (+4) and Flores carded a score of 78 (+6). Senior Craig Leslie also posted a 76 (+4) and tied for 38th at 306 (+18). Junior Lucas Lee tied for 60th at 311 (+23) following a final round of 80 (+8).
The NCAA team championship represents No. 103 for UCLA, the most of any school in the nation. The national championship is also UCLA's third in May. The women's water polo team won its fourth straight NCAA title on Mother's Day and the women's tennis team captured its first NCAA team crown on May 20. The Bruins have won 17 NCAA team titles in the past six years.
Special thanks to Ricardo Flores for his championship photos.
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To view a slideshow on GolfWeek click here.
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