UD golfer wins CAA crown
Published: Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, May 1, 2012 02:05
The 18th hole at Wilmington Country Club, the final hole to capture the men’s golf CAA championship Sunday, has a slightly elevated green with dreadful bunkers hugging each side and a looming brick mansion clubhouse in the distance.
A member of the Delaware men’s golf team, senior Greg Matthias, stood and stared at the flag, walked up to his ball and then walked back on the 18th fairway. Matthias knew he had to put the ball in the hole in about four shots for a chance to win the individual championship.
Matthias led the pack since he shot a tournament-low round of 68 on Saturday.
He took a full swing, connected with the ball and watched it soar high and wide right. It landed in the rough, just short of the bunker, but Matthias achieved his goal. He pitched onto the green about seven feet from the pin and two-putted to victory.
“I knew I had to two-putt at least to get in a playoff or win by one,” Matthias said. “I was just trying to play it safe on that putt and lag it down there and tap in.”
His 217 helped Delaware tie for sixth with a total score of 907, behind winner UNC-Wilmington’s 884. Davin White and the Georgia State Panthers just fell short of UNCW losing by two strokes.
There were still three groups of threesomes left on the course and the waiting game began. Matthias sat with the rest of his team around the 18th green and watched.
The closest to Matthias was White. He came to the 18th green with a 12-foot downhill putt that would force a sudden death playoff with Matthias.
“It looked like it was going in the whole way,” Matthias said. “I thought he made it.”
White’s putt bent away from the cup at the last second and lipped out, sealing the win for Matthias. Hugs from teammates, coaches and his mother ensued as the scorekeeper wrote 217 in red on the leaderboard. Matthias joins Justin Martinson as the only Delaware player’s to ever win the CAA individual championship.
Tall and wide oak trees provided some shade, but did not deter fans from coming and supporting their teams.
Matthias’ gallery began with four people on the first hole and grew to 14 people by the 12th. He won with a round of 77, his worst round of the tournament, but it was tale of two sides.
“After shooting 68, it is awfully tough to come back the next day and shoot 68 again,” head coach Mike Keogh said.
Still, Mathias started the final round strong, shooting par on the first four holes.
“He is having the weekend of his life,” a gallery member said after Matthias dropped his tee shot two feet from the cup on the par-3 fourth.
Then Matthias’ struggles began. He shot 6-over-par to finish the front nine.
Matthias slammed his driver on the ground after he drove into a sand trap on the par-4 eighth. The frustration continued after he chipped 10 feet past the hole. As Matthias eyed his put, he took off his white hat, ran his hands through his wavy, hat-matted brown hair and pondered a putt he would miss for double bogey.
On the ninth hole, Matthias’ second shot landed on the far side of the green from the flag. He slammed his white, gold and blue Delaware golf bag, and three-putted for bogey.
He then turned his day around on the back nine.
A 41 on the front nine bounced VCU’s Marc Dobias to the top of the leaderboard. Matthias reclaimed the lead in just three swings. He hit a booming drive about 300 yards, which left him 60 from the pin, pitched onto the green two feet from the hole and tapped in for birdie.
As Dobias fell apart down the stretch, Matthias gained ground. On the 15th hole, Matthias birdied again, while Dobias bogeyed. Matthias’ second shot was from 115 yards out on an elevated green with a large bunker in the front. Matthias’ shot landed a foot past the bunker, took two hops and stopped on a dime a foot from the hole.
“I had a good yardage,” Matthias said. “I could go right at it and figured I had a slope there and play it a little right and let it come down, and it was right on the number.”
Matthias birdied one more time on the 16th hole and managed out of some tough situations on the 17th and 18th to finish his back nine at even-par.
Keogh becomes the first coach to take two individual players to the NCAA regional.
“It is very gratifying, two years out of three, to be the lead dog and the winner of the CAA championships,” he said.
Stephen Scialo ended his career with the Hens on a high note, shooting a team low of 75 on the final day. Scialo struggled the first two days shooting 80. Junior Ben Conroy was the closest scoring teammate to Matthias, finishing tied for 32nd with a score of 232.
Keogh said the competition from the southern teams is tough, which shows Delaware is a growing program.
“We were the low score on the second day,” he said. “When you have 10 other teams the quality of these and you can be the low score in one of the three rounds, it shows that you are headed in the right direction.”
Keogh will travel with Matthias to the NCAA Regional in California May 17-19.
“Practice-wise, I’m going to do pretty much the same thing I’ve been doing,” Matthias said. “A lot of short game work to try and get the putting a lot better, and see if I can maybe go win the thing.”