MILTON, Ga. -- The postseason run for the Ball State men’s golf team came to an end Thursday in the final round of stroke play at the NCAA Championships.
The Cardinals posted a team score of 293 to finish the tournament with a 54-hole total of 872 (+32). Ball State placed 30th in a loaded field of the nation's best on the par-70 layout at the Capital City Club Crabapple Course.
The low eight teams at the conclusion of the round qualified for the match play portion of the competition to determine the national champion. Those teams were: California, Georgia Tech, Alabama, Texas, Illinois, New Mexico, UNLV and Arizona State. California's Max Homa was crowned as the individual medalist.
Thursday’s round marked the conclusion of a memorable three-week stretch for Ball State. The Cardinals earned an at-large berth into the NCAA tournament, advanced out of the Pullman Regional in an exciting playoff and then saw their name atop the leaderboard early in the morning wave of Tuesday’s opening round of the championships in Atlanta.
“What an opportunity for our program to be here this week,” Ball State coach Mike Fleck said. “Hopefully these guys have kind of set the standard for what we can do down the road, but this group is pretty special to me. They’ve competed all year long. Our goal was to come here and compete and not just participate, and we did that this week. I’m thankful for what this group has done.”
Thursday also marked the final round in the careers of Ball State seniors Joe Gasser, Tony Lazzara and Alex Stinson, who helped the Cardinals to their first NCAA Regional berth since 1991 and their first NCAA Championships appearance since 1986.
Lazzara was Ball State’s top finisher for the week despite carding a 77 in Thursday’s final round. The Carmel, Ind., product, who started his day at 1-under par and pushed it as low as 2-under with an early birdie, posted the best 54-hole total of his career at 216 (+6). He tied for 93rd in the 156-player field and defeated 17 players ranked in the top 100 in the country.
Stinson finished three shots behind Lazzara at 219 (+9) after posting a third-round 73 that featured a pair of late birdies on his second nine.
Gasser closed his career in style with a birdie on his 18th hole to card his second consecutive round of 72 and match Tyler Merkel for the team’s low round of the day. Gasser finished the tournament with a three-day total of 220 (+10), while Merkel was one shot behind him at 221 (+11).
McCormick Clouser closed the tournament with a 76 on his way to a 54-hole score of 227 (+17).
Ball State went off the 10th tee in the first groups Thursday and spent the entire round shuffling among the final four spots on the leaderboard with South Carolina, St. Mary’s and Kent State.
The Cardinals were the only team in the field ranked outside the top 50 nationally entering the tournament but managed to hang throughout the week with some of the top teams in the country.