PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 24, 2009) -- The purple and gold was certainly on display during Tuesday’s final round at the John Hayt Invitational as the Tigers ran away with the team title and sophomore John Peterson captured medalist honors at the prestigious event held at Sawgrass Country Club.
What appeared to be a fight to the finish turned into a comfortable eight-stroke victory for LSU as the Tigers posted a team round of 6-over par 294 in the final round of the championship and a 54-hole score of 21-over 885 over the course of three days of competition.
The Tigers opened play Tuesday with a narrow two-shot lead over 10th-ranked Arizona State, and the Sun Devils finished as the tournament runner-up with a three-day total of 29-over 893.
The two teams were locked in a heated battle with three holes to play as the Tigers held onto their two-shot advantage, but LSU closed the tournament with a cumulative effort of 1-under par in the final three holes from its top four scorers. The top four scorers for the Sun Devils played the 16th, 17th and 18th holes at 5-over par to earn a runner-up finish in a strong 15-team field.
For the Tigers, it marks their second tournament championship of the 2008-09 season as they also tied for the team title at the Gopher Invitational in their season opener back on Sept. 14, 2008.
It is also the first time in the 18-year history of the John Hayt Invitational that LSU has captured a team title at the tournament hosted by North Florida with its previous best finish of a tie for third coming back in 2001. Peterson is also the first Tiger to capture medalist honors at the event.
“Sawgrass is a really challenging golf course, and it does a good job of identifying who is playing the best because it is such a challenging course,” said LSU head coach Chuck Winstead. “There is a lot of wind and it was cold all week. You’re going to make bogeys and double bogeys when you play in conditions like this. An event like this is the epitome of what college golf is all about.
“The thing that our guys showed the most improvement on is being able to play through adversity and to come back and play the way they know they are capable.”
Peterson was outstanding in the final round as he fired the lowest round of the day with a 2-under 70 to earn a two-stroke victory with a three-day score of 2-under 214. The Fort Worth, Texas, native opened the final round within striking distance of the leaders after wrapping up the second round three shots back in a tie for fourth place.
After making a double bogey at the par-four second hole, Peterson caught fire and reeled off six birdies in a span of seven holes to quickly move to 4-under on his round. He carded back-to-back birdies at No. 5 and No. 6 before a string of four-straight at No. 8, No. 9, No. 10 and No. 11.
Peterson then closed out his round with two bogeys in his final seven holes down the stretch with both coming at the par-three 12th and par-four 16th. In the end, he finished two shots clear of LSU teammate Andrew Loupe, Zack Byrd of Coastal Carolina and Hunter Hamrick of Alabama for the first win by an LSU golfer in nearly four years.
With his victory, Peterson is the first LSU Tiger to win medalist honors since Beck Troutman was the low scorer at the 2005 LSU Spring Invitational held at the University Club in Baton Rouge.
Not to be overshadowed is the performance of Loupe, who also earned his best career finish at the collegiate level by tying for second place with a 54-hole score of even-par 216.
Like Peterson, Loupe opened play in the final round with visions of winning the individual title as he finished the second round two shots out of the lead in sole possession of third place. He carded four birdies and five bogeys on his final round to finish the day with a 1-over 73 and move up one spot into a tie for second place in the final individual standings.
What’s even more impressive is the way in which Loupe finished his round by making birdies on the par-four 16th and par-five 18th holes to seal the victory for the Tigers.
“I thought both John and Andrew were outstanding this week,” Winstead said. “You look at those two now compared to where they were at this time last year and it’s easy for someone to see how much they’ve improved. They’ve worked very hard to get where they are today. I think what they showed this week was the mental toughness needed to play through adversity and have success.”
Freshman Sang Yi matched Loupe’s effort on the day with a 1-over 73 in the final round to finish the tournament in a tie for 56th place at 17-over 233. The Tigers also counted a 6-over par 78 by Josh Jones as the freshman finished in a tie for 48th place with a three-round total of 16-over 232.
Junior Brent Blaum wrapped up the tournament in a tie for 44th place at 15-over 231, while senior Jarrod Barsamian finished in a tie for 30th place at 13-over 229, including an impressive round of 1-over 73 in Tuesday’s final round, while playing as an individual.
After returning to Baton Rouge, the Tigers will break for nearly one month before returning to the course at Forest Heights Country Club in Statesboro, Ga., where they will battle many of the best teams in the nation at the Schenkel/E-Z-Go Invitational. The 54-hole championship is slated to go three days from March 20-22 and is one of the premier events of the spring season.
--Courtesy LSU Athletic Department
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