BRADENTON, FLA - Junior Tim Gornik sank a 35-foot putt on the 19th hole of his match and Duke also received wins from Brinson Paolini and Austin Cody on Monday to claim a dramatic 3-2 win over second-seed California to reach the finals of the Callaway Collegiate Match Play Championship. The Blue Devils, the defending champions at the event, will face top-seed Arkansas on Tuesday at the Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Fla. in the championship match.
"Today was exciting, a lot of anticipation, a lot of good golf, and there was some frustration out there," said head coach Jamie Green. "Brinson [Paolini] got off to a really good start and kept it rolling, and Julian [Suri] battled but unfortunately ended a little early as well. Two matches were decided with the three, four, and five guys still out there, so it was pretty much up in the air for about the last six or seven holes. Any of those matches certainly could have gone either way, and that's where the exciting part came in. Austin played great down the stretch for him to notch that win 2 and 1, and then obviously the most excitement of all was having both teams watching a match that went down to the last hole. With one hole left, standing on the tee, Tim [Gornik] knew we had to have that, and fortunately he made birdie on that par five, and it went to extra holes. Both players on this par 3 hit shots to about 35 feet, Tim's was a little further away so he went first and ended up making a 35-foot putt and those are hard to make and that ended up being the difference."
"These guys love the format. There is a different feel to match-play. You have that one opponent so there is a lot of intensity. Our guys like the positions they get in in match play. Obviously they love to get up a lot of holes early and ride it on in with a big win, but as much as that is fun, they just as much enjoy getting down to the last hole or two and having their match count for something big like a team win. That kind of sums up how they play match up, they want to be in that big spot and fortunately for the game of match play, they are all important and all big," added Green.
Gornik never led his match with Keelan Kilpatrick until the 35-footer found the bottom of the cup and moved Duke into the finals. After both players parred the first four holes (beginning at No. 4) of the match Kilpatrick claimed wins on No. 8 and No. 10 to go 2-up. Gornik trimmed the deficit in half with a par on No. 11 but Kilpatrick regained a 2-up advantage with a par on No. 14. Gornik battled back with pars on No. 17 and No. 1 to square the match with two holes remaining but Kilpatrick claimed No. 2 with a par to go 1-up with one hole remaining. With the team title hopes and the match on the line, the Duke junior carded a birdie on the par 5 third hole with a four-foot putt to send the match in extra holes. Gornik rode the momentum of the birdie on No. 3 into the 237-yard, par 3 fourth hole and sealed the victory with the lengthy putt.
"It feels great to get that win and to know that we're in the finals for the second straight year. We played a really good team today, Cal's been playing well all season, and we're excited to come away with the win. Everyone on the team did really well today," said Gornik. "We both played well, it was back and forth the entire day, but he [Kilpatrick] was leading the whole day, and then I ended up making birdie on the last hole in regulation and then I made that 35-footer to win it all. Everyone was there watching since their matches had already ended, so it was pretty cool. I'm excited."
Paolini controlled his match from the start en route to a 6 & 5 win over Michael Kim. The Virginia Beach, Va., native birdied the par 4 opening hole and added another birdie on No. 3 (par 5) to go 2-up. Paolini also took the par 4 fourth hole before dropping his only hole of the round with a bogey on No. 5. He added par wins on No. 7 and No. 9 to grab a 4-up advantage at the turn. Paolini parred the next four holes, winning holes No. 10 and No. 13, to secure the victory. He has now won seven consecutive matches at Callaway Collegiate Match Play Championship, including all three matches at this year's event.
Cody fell behind early in his match with Joel Stalter before finishing strong for a 2 & 1 victory. Stalter birdied the first hole (No. 2) but Cody countered with par wins on No. 5 and No. 7 to take a 1-up lead. A bogey by Cody on No. 8 dropped the match back to all square at the turn. Cody added a birdie on No. 10 to regain the lead but Stalter claimed the par 4 12th hole to tie things up. A Cody birdie gave the Duke sophomore the lead but Stalter again countered on the next hole to square the match. Cody seized the lead with a par on No. 16 and closed out the match with a par win on No. 18. Cody is now 8-1-1 in his career in match play, including a 6-0-1 record in the Callaway Collegiate Match Play Championship.
Yaroslav Merkulov fell 2 & 1 to Cal's Brandon Hagy. Merkulov started strong with wins on No. 5 and No. 6 to go 2-up early in the round. Hagy claimed the par 5 seventh hole, but the Duke junior birdied the next three holes to grab a 4-up lead through eight. Hagy countered with wins on No. 11, No. 12, No. 13 and No. 14 before grabbing his first lead of the day with a birdie on the par 5 17th hole. Hagy sealed the match with a par win on No. 1.
Junior Julian Suri dropped a 4 & 3 decision to Max Homa for his first career match play loss. He is now 8-1-1 at Duke in match play pairings. Suri and Homa each parred the first four holes on Monday before three consecutive bogeys by Suri gave his California counterpart a 3-up edge at the turn. Homa birdied the par 4 10th hole to move to 4-up before Suri countered with an eagle on 349-yard, par 4 12th hole to trim the deficit. Homa countered with a birdie on No. 13 and matched pars from Suri on No. 14 and No. 15 to claim the victory.
"Arkansas is good team, they're every bit strong as Cal, I truly believe that Cal and Arkansas are two of the best teams in the country. They are deep, just like Cal, there's no push-over match there. Fortunately, we're deep as well, we've got very strong players one through five and that's what's going to make tomorrow exciting. Obviously we'd love to come away with a win, but more than anything else, they are excited, hopefully they ride this wave of energy you get from a big win like that. They're really looking forward to playing the course tomorrow and seeing if they can get it done one more time," said Green.
Duke is now 9-1 over the last two years in match play events with a team championship at the 2011 Callaway Collegiate Match Play Championship and a semifinalist appearance at the 2011 NCAA Championship. The Blue Devils have won seven straight matches at the Callaway Collegiate Match Play Championship.
Final-round matches will begin Tuesday morning at 8:30 a.m. ET. Live scoring is available at www.golfstat.com.
Callaway Collegiate Match Play Championship
Third Round Results
(1) Arkansas def. (5) Chattanooga, 5-0
(3) Duke def. (2) California, 3-2
(9) East Carolina def. (4) Oklahoma State, 3.5-1.5
(6) Indiana def. (10) Tennessee, 3 and 2
(8) Iowa def. (13) Colorado State, 3-2
(7) Liberty def. (14) Arizona State, 4-1
(16) Washington State def. (12) South Florida, 3-2
(15) UNCW def. (11) Kennesaw State, 4.5-0.5