The San Diego State men's golf team had a historic day at Riviera Country Club, moving from 15th place all the way into a tie for fourth to advance to the match play portion of the 2012 NCAA championships in Pacific Palisades, Calif.
The Aztecs' even-par 284 tied as the lowest round by any squad over the three days of stroke play and gave them a 54-hole total of 19-over 871 to already assure them of the program's best finish at nationals since at least 1966.
SDSU tied for fourth with third-ranked California, whom it will face in the first round of match play, which includes eight total squads on Friday morning.
Picking up the pace
The Aztecs had opened the tournament with a 292, followed by a 295 which put them in a tie for 24th place when they left the course yesterday afternoon.
By the end of Wednesday's action they had moved up into a tie for 15th leading into a highlight-filled 18 holes that saw the team ascend to as high as third place before settling into fourth. San Diego State's even-par 284 matched as the lowest round by any of the 30 teams over the three days of action, tying its playing partner for the final 18 in top-ranked Texas, who duplicated the final-round 284.
Four of the five Aztecs golfers carded their low round of the tournament on Thursday, including senior J.J. Spaun (San Dimas, Calif.), who moved from 37th all the way into a tie for 13th place with the squad's best score of the tournament at 2-under 69.
Spaun, who tied for third at the NCAAs last year, had two birdies through the first nine holes, before coming up with the shot of tournament with an eagle on the par-5 first hole. The 69 gave him a 54-hole score of 2-over 215, which is the identical number he put up at the same event a year ago.
Junior Tom Berry (New Haw, England) had three birdies on the day to post his best 18 by two strokes at even-par 71 to move him from 37th into a tie for 29th with a 217. SDSU senior Alex Kang (Oak Park, Calif.) got off to a rough start with a triple bogey on his first hole, followed by a bogey, but then made 13 straight pars before going birdie-par-bogey to end the day with a 75 and tie for 50th at 7-over 220.
The team's No. 4 and No. 5 golfers both had outstanding days with senior Matt Hoffenberg (Simi Valley, Calif.) going from 114th into 69th with the help of his even-par 71, while classmate Colin Featherstone (Fallbrook, Calif.) had his best performance with a 73 to go from 124th into 105th with a 227.
Alabama finished first on the team leaderboard to earn the top seed for stroke play at 7-over 859. Illinois' Thomas Pieters won the individual national title with his 5-under 208.
The Aztecs are slated to start match play along with the Golden Bears at 10:45 a.m. PT, with the winner advancing to Saturday's semifinals. A link to live stats as well as live video will be available on goaztecs.com.