by Ron Balicki
TUCSON, Ariz. Feb. 2, 2011) -- Led by Todd Baek and Johan Carlsson, San Diego State shot a closing-round 5-over 289 and rolled to an eight-shot victory Tuesday in the Arizona Intercollegiate at Arizona National Golf Club.
The Aztecs, No. 14 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings coming into the spring season, finished at 7-over 859 as they claimed their second title of the season, following a fall campaign during which they had three top-3 finishes, including a win at the Tucker.
Pepperdine, led by individual medalist Andrew Putnam, finished second, closing with a 293 for a 15-over 867 total. Sharing fourth place at 869 were Pacific and host Arizona’s “B” squad, which fired the best final round at 1-under 283.
UNLV, Arizona and New Mexico tied for fifth at 879, with No. 13-ranked California, the 2010 tournament champion, placing eighth at 881 in the 16-team field.
Putnam finished first for the second time this season, closing with a 1-under 70 for a 7-under 206 total, three strokes better than Stefan Cox of Arizona “B,” who shot 68 for a 4-under 209.
Second-round play was stopped Monday by darkness with teams having between 5-9 holes to play. Then, Tuesday morning, the resumption of Round 2 was delayed by some 40 minutes by frost.
“Right now I’m pretty exhausted and I know my guys certainly are,” said Ryan Donovan, head coach at San Diego State, which had six holes to play in the second round to start the day. “It felt like we were out there for a week.
“The conditions (rain, cold, wind and even a patch of hail) these last two days made things very challenging. So to come through it all and win the tournament is very gratifying. I’m just so proud of the way the guys hung in there and battled, especially when things weren’t going so well.”
The Aztecs started the final round with a three-shot lead over Pepperdine, but early on the final nine holes saw Pacific move in front by two, playing the first 12 holes in 4 under compared to San Diego State’s 6 over through 10 holes.
Host Arizona’s “A” squad made a charge, climbing from ninth place to start the round, getting it to 6 under on the final 18 holes, and moving within two shots of the lead after 11 holes.
But the Wildcats self-destructed down the stretch. They played holes 12-15 in 11-over par among their counters, including 5 over on the par-4 13th, to tumble into sixth place and nine shots behind San Diego State. And, it certainly didn’t help the cause with they played the final three holes in 7 over.
Baek’s closing 68 led to a tie for third overall at 2-under 211 to lead the Aztec attack. Alex Kang tied for seventh at 216, while J.J. Spaun tied for 14th (218), Colin Featherstone tied for 23rd (221) and Carlsson tied for 38th (225) after very uncharacteristic opening rounds of 77-78.
“We’ve really been focusing this year on team chemistry,” Donovan said. “We really stress self-motivation. We have a small squad, only seven players, but they are really getting into it. They are believing in themselves and just how good they are and still can be.”
Putnam, who last fall tied for first at the Tucker, was the tournament’s birdie leader with 14 and tops in playing the par-3s at 2 under. His final round consisted of four birdies and three bogeys, but it was his opening, six-birdie, no-bogey 65 that set the stage for the victory.
“With the weather constantly changing and the newness of playing with all the guys on your team, this definitely was one of the more interesting tournaments I’ve played,” Putnam, a senior, said. “Emotionally, it was an up and down roller coaster.
“But I played solid all the way around. I think I only hit it in the desert once. I kept the ball in front of me most of the tournament and that was the key."
“Obviously the best way you can start is with a win, so I think definitely this adds to my confidence. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season. I feel when I’m playing well, I can win any tournament.”
View results for Arizona Intercollegiate Golf Tournament