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Ole Miss men’s golf misses NCAA Championships cut in brutal fashion

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Ugh.

Chris Malloy-Twitter

The last time we saw our heroes, they were headed west for the NCAA Regional contest in Palo Alto, Calif. at the Stanford University Course. Against a stacked field that included eight teams ranked in the Top-50, our boys would need to finish in the top five to advance to the NCAA Championship.

The Rebel hopes took a major hit even before the three-day match began when senior leader Beau Briggs went down with a wrist injury, forcing the team alternate, freshmen Sarut Vongchaisit, to take Briggs’ place in the rotation.

Thankfully, for Squad Rebs, Vongchaisit didn’t look at all phased by being thrust in to a leading role during round one. The Bangkok, Thailand native dropped a career-low -4 (66) on the field to lead the team in scoring and secure a T-2 individual finish after day one. The 66 was the lowest round ever shot by an Ole Miss Rebel in Regional competition. Jack Gnam backed up his fellow freshmen with a +1 (71) of his own. Sophomore Cecil Wegener also carded a +1 round for the team.

It was another freshmen, Jackson Suber, that finished out the scoring for the team on Day one with a round of +4 (74). The scores would put the Rebs in a tie for 5th place after the first round with a +2 cumulative score.

Day two turned out to be a historic day for Rebel golf. Cecil Wegener and Jackson Suber would be the scoring bell cows for the squad in the second frame. Both golfers carded -2 (68) rounds to lead the charge. Vongchaisit continued his stellar play with a -1 round of 69. His cumulative -5 score kept him in a tie for 2nd place overall after the second round.

The worst team score (and I use that term only for comparative purposes) came from freshmen Jack Gnam who carded an even par round (70). The team score of -5 was the lowest for a single round in Regional play in Ole Miss golf history. The monumental day kept the team in 5th place, one stroke behind 4th place Georgia Southern, and three shots ahead of LSU headed into the final day.

And then some things happened.

Look, I believe in the concept of WAOM. I've seen it too many times not to believe in it. From Bryce Drew, to the Texas Super Regional, to freaking 4th-and-25, we as Rebel fans have experienced some of the most soul-crushing moments that any single sports fandom should probably rightfully endure. When good things happen to Ole Miss sports you may even forget about the realness of WAOM and its surefire inevitability, but when it reminds you that it is alive and well, it does not do so lightly.

So, with that, lets talk about this final round for Ole Miss golf.

The team didn’t play their best on the final day. The upper-classmen, Wegener and Josh Seiple were a combined +7 on the outward nine and freshmen Suber and Vongchaisit had roller coaster opening nine holes that got them both +1 scores for their troubles. The lone bright spot early on was freshmen Jack Gnam who was -3 on the round at the turn.

Jackon Suber was a ball of flame on the back nine, four birdies on the back, including three in a row, got the Tampa freshmen to -3 (67) on the day to lead the team. Jack Gnam cooled a bit on the back, carding four bogeys on the back side, but still managed to land the plane at even par for the round. As all of that was going on, the LSU Tigers began to surge up the leader-board, even taking over the 5th position from Ole Miss as the two teams headed down the stretch. A couple of birdies later and LSU would widen that lead to three as Wegener and Vongchaisit approached the final three holes.

Wegener would birdie his 16th hole, and coupled with an LSU bogey, the lead would be cut to just one. Another bogey by LSU’s top golfer, Luis Gagne, and the teams found themselves tied for the last spot in the NCAA Championship.

Then all hell broke loose.

LSU’s third player, Trey Winstead made a triple bogey on his final hole and Gagne made another bogey on his 17th and suddenly Ole Miss found itself four shots ahead with only Vongchaisit and Wegener out on the course to finish for Ole Miss.

That’s when WAOM showed the hell up in the worst way.

Vongchaisit, the freshmen alternate, who had been forced to fill in for his injured senior teammate, who had played his whole ass off the first two days to lead his team to the cusp on an NCAA Championship berth, had one of the worst and most brutal things happen to him that I have ever heard of in a competitive golf tournament.

He shot a nine on the par five 7th hole (his 16th hole on the round). A nine is awful enough, but its how the nine happened that makes it so horrifically WAOM that I kind of don’t even want to write about it, but here goes…

He teed off and the ball hit the fairway but rolled off and into the first cut of fescue grass. When he got to where his ball should have been, he could not find it. No one could find it. So, a one stroke penalty. Hitting three. With his next shot, he hit a bird.

Not a birdie, but an actual fucking bird.

In the air.

A bird.

The ball careened off said bird and into the out of bonds area. Another one stroke penalty, now hitting five. Thankfully, nothing else befell poor Sarut the rest of the hole. The earth didn’t open and swallow him up after his 5th shot, he didn’t spontaneously combust after stroke six. A swarm of bees didn’t engulf him on shot seven. A lion did not run out of the trees and maim him on stroke eight, and no service processor handed him a summons as he putted out. But none of that would have been surprising after the bird incident.

Here’s the bird by the way.

Bunkie Perkins

Had this happened to me, I would have walked off the course right then and there. I would have quit golf immediately, burned my clubs, shoes, bag, and anything else I thought might be infected, and then taken up a less emotionally debilitating activity, like knitting. But to the young freshmen’s credit, he finished his round, carding a +7. This not only dropped Vongchasit from his second-place tie to a T-21 finish individually, but forced the team to take Josh Seiple’s +5 final round score.

That, coupled with a late bogey by Wegener sealed the Ole Miss team’s fate. When the dust and the dead birds settled, Ole Miss would finish one stroke behind LSU and out of the NCAA Championship hunt.

Again, a fucking bird was the difference here. A bird.

Obviously, a very disappointing outcome for the team. Really just brutal all the way around. A tough way for seniors Briggs and Josh Seiple to go out and it’s the second-straight year where some late round horrors became the difference between the Rebs advancing and ending their season. There are some positives though, namely the three freshmen who showed out in a big way the entire Regional tournament. But for those three, the Rebels aren’t even able to compete for a NCAA Championship ticket.

That’s what you call bright prospects for the future of the program.


Epilogue

I want to thank you guys for reading about another season of Ole Miss golf. Despite the way it ended this season, I am very optimistic about the direction the program is headed and you should be, too.

Thanks to coaches Chris Malloy and Kyle Ellis for giving me more access to the program than I should have and thanks to the Ole Miss golfers for tolerating my jokes about them every season.

Also, MANY of you have asked about the Swinging Landshark logo that I had done and that the team is wearing. Yes, there will be hats, shirts, etc. available with that logo soon. I don’t know when or in what capacity just yet, but when I know, you’ll know. I promise.

Again, thanks.

And fuck birds. They aren’t even real.