__AUGUSTA, GA.—His team had finished in second place, one shot back of Oklahoma State at Forest Hills GC. Yet Tennessee coach__Jim Kelson's face displayed a sense of relief more than disappointment as his team walked away from the trophy ceremony Sunday afternoon at the Insperity Augusta State Invitational.
Entering the tournament, the Volunteers had 52-55-3 record, putting them in danger of being ineligible for an at-large invitation to NCAA regionals due to the .500 rule. But after shooting a second-round four-under 284 Saturday to get into the last threesome for the final round, Kelson's crew nearly overcame their entire 10-shot deficit, shooting a five-under 285 (Garrick Porteous with a 69, Robin Wingardh a 70) to finish with a 14-under 849 overall and its first top-three performance of the season.
"This was one of the most important if not most important finish since I've been at Tennessee and maybe as far back as I've been a coach," Kelson said afterward, his team now with a 66-56-3. "By finishing second against such a good field, it really has put us in a position to have a good year. Hopefully this is something that turns our whole season around and puts a positive spin on everything. I'm very excited about our team and what they accomplished this week."
That said, over the last few holes it appeared that Tennessee would actually complete the comeback and pass the Cowboys. The leader boards on the course showed the Volunteers up on by a stroke when the final group was playing the drivable par-4 18th hole. When OSU's Kevin Tway, who birdied the 17th, hit his tee shot way right of the green, it looked like a birdie to force a playoff would be difficult. Yet from 53 yards away, the senior hit his approach to inches and tapped in the putt. Not until Tway signed his scorecard did it become clear that the leader board had him one shot higher than his true score. Thus the birdie had actually won the tournament for Oklahoma State.
Despite a closing four-over 292, OSU's highest final-round score of the spring, the top-ranked team in the Golf World/Nike Golf coaches' poll claimed its sixth win of the season, and the third without Peter Uihlein in the lineup. The U.S. Amateur champion, a competitor at this week's Masters, was a spectator wearing shorts and a T-shirt while watching the team grind it out on the back nine (accompanied by former Cowboy Rickie Fowler). Tway filled the void, however, shooting a 12-under 204, including an tournament-record tying 64 in the opening round, to win the individual title by five strokes. A closing 71 gave him his first victory of his senior season after posting five top-10s.
"The way he hit the ball all week is the way he's hit the ball all spring, really, really well," said OSU coach Mike McGraw. "He's been consistent and part of that consistency has come because he's more mature than he used to be. … I couldn't be more happy for the guy."
Tway became the third Oklahoma State golfer to win an individual title this season, joining Uihlein (Olympia Fields) and Morgan Hoffmann (Southern Highlands).