Matthew Riedel (Vanderbilt Athletics photo)
While there are no sure bets in golf, heading into the SEC Match Play Championships it was almost a given Vanderbilt would land a spot in Tuesday's title match.
While the Commodores won the stroke play competition at 39-under 801, the bigger question was which one of the other 13 teams would emerge to challenge the second-ranked Dores for early season bragging rights in the talent-ladened conference.
Would it be third-ranked Auburn or sixth-ranked Texas A&M, led by U.S. Amateur champion Sam Bennett? Or maybe it would be 10th-ranked Florida behind Ricky Castillo
and Fred Biondi
. Alabama would certainly have a say in matters, too.
At the end of 54-holes of stroke play, it was Tennessee that answered the call, as the Volunteers put together the low round of the day with a final round of 12-under 268 to finish second, earning the right to go mano a mano with the powerful Commodores on Tuesday at Old Overton Club in Vestavia, Ala.
With medalist Matthew Riedel
along with veterans Gordon Sargent
and Cole Sherwood
leading Vanderbilt to a wire-to-wire victory in the stroke play competition, Tennessee used under-par rounds by freshman standout Caleb Surratt
(65), junior Jack Hall (66), sophomore Cade Russell
(68) and redshirt freshman Lance Simpson
(69) to overtake Auburn and advance to Tuesday's title match.
Tennessee's national profile rose considerably when Surratt committed to the Volunteers. The freshman had quite a summer before arriving in Knoxville, winning the inaugural Elite Amateur Series Cup
on the strength of four top-five finishes in the series.
After beginning the tournament with rounds of 67 and 73, the Indian Trail, NC native kicked it into high gear on Monday, carding a 5-under 65 to lead the Volunteers' final round charge. Five birdies and an eagle more than offset a pair of bogeys.
Hall's three-round total of 12-under earned the junior a share of second place. Finishing just one stroke back of Riedel for the individual title, Hall's carded three rounds in the 60s (67-65-66) to cement his highest finish as a collegian.
Playing in just his second collegiate tournament, Simpson also strung together three sub-par rounds (68-65-69) to tie for 10th place at 8-under. The Knoxville native has now shot at or below par in five of his six rounds this season.
Waiting for the upstart Volunteers will be one of the most talented and deepest teams in the collegiate ranks.
Vanderbilt's depth was on full display over the last two days at Old Overton, where Riedel broke through to win his first collegiate tournament. His final round 66 was fueled by three birdies on the inward nine as the Houston native overtook his teammate Sargent over the closing holes to secure the title.
“Matthew played really well today and I just couldn’t be prouder of him,” said Vandy head coach Scott Limbaugh. “Going bogey-free out there today was really great golf. He’s done an outstanding job at home which I believe has helped prepare him to be ready for today. His moment came and he took it which says a lot about his competitive character.”
Sargent finished in a three-way tie for second place, while Vandy also got a top-10 finish from Sherwood, who tied for 10th at 8-under.
The Vanderbilt-Tennessee championship match will get underway at 12:15 p.m. ET at Old Overton.
The remaining 12 teams in the field will also play Tuesday to determine the final standings of the event.
ABOUT THE SEC Match Play
Men's college match play tournament, with
each team match consisting of five individual matches.
A player match win is worth 1 point, and a tie is worth
1/2, and the winning team is the one with the most
points in the five player matches. 54 holes of stroke
play determines match play opponents.
View Complete Tournament Information