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COVID protocols knock out players, team at two NCAA D-I Men's Regionals

May 18, 2021

Sam Houston State fifth-year senior William Holcomb IV was in contention at the Stillwater Regional before being forced to sit due to COVID-19 protocols.

Copyright USGA/Chris Keane

Sam Houston State managed to advance to the NCAA D-I Men's Championship for the first time in school history despite missing its best player, William Holcomb IV, from the starting lineup.

The fifth-year senior, a semifinalist at the 2019 U.S. Amateur, was ruled out of Tuesday’s final round of play at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla., due to COVID-19 protocols. According to the school, based on contract tracing, Holcomb was not allowed to play.

That meant Sam Houston State had to play with just four players on Tuesday (GolfChannel.com is reporting the school's substitute player has also been ruled out over COVID protocols) as it tried to finish in the top five of the 54-hole event and earn a berth into the national finals at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., next week. Teams only got in a few holes on Tuesday before a weather delay stopped play. At the time, SHS, the No. 8 seed entering the event, was two over and in fifth place, three shots clear of Auburn.

By day's end, however, the school had moved into fourth place after shooting a seven-over 295 to close, four shots clear of fifth-place Liberty and five up on Auburn.

Holcomb shot rounds of 68 and 70 to sit in second place after 36 holes on Monday, five shots back of the leader, SMU senior Noah Goodwin. (Forecasted bad weather later in the week caused tournament officials to play 36 holes on Monday in order to try to complete all 54 holes before day’s end Wednesday.)

Playing with only four players means that the team can’t drop any score from the remaining golfers in the lineup. Additionally, if any of the four can’t post a score, the team would be knocked out of the competition.

Sam Houston State wasn’t the only school impacted by COVID at regionals. At the Cle Elum Regional in Washington, the NCAA announced that Sacramento State would not continue to compete for the final 36 holes at Tumble Creek Golf Club at Suncadia Resort. An NCAA statement read: After consulting with the NCAA Championship Medical Team, the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Committee regrets to announce that, due to COVID-19 protocols, Sacramento State will be unable to continue to participate in the 2021 Division I Men’s Golf Championships. Sacramento State was competing in the Cle Elum regional in Washington state this week. Because of privacy issues, no further details will be provided.

The Big Sky champions were 13th out of 14 teams after the first round of play.

In a bit of irony, Sam Houston State coach Brandt Kieschnick is also the women's coach at the school. The Bearkats were among the programs in the field at last week's NCAA Women's Regional at LSU that was eliminated from the postseason without a chance to play a hole when the NCAA canceled the tournament due to bad weather.