May 18, 2012
ATHENS, Ga. - Overcoming a slow start, the University of Houston golf team used a late Second-Round surge to put itself in contention Friday for a top-five finish during the NCAA Athens Regional.
The top five teams and the top individual not from those teams advance to the NCAA Championships on May 29-June 3 at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif.
Struggling at times earlier in the round, three Cougars - junior James Ross, freshman Roman Robledo and sophomore Jesse Droemer - post a combined four birdies during their final two holes to push the team into a tie for seventh place with No. 40 Long Beach State and Wake Forest at 578. Following the round, head coach Jonathan Dismuke said his team's resilience and mental toughness during the entire day impressed him the most.
"Earlier in the season, we would not have had this finish. Our guys are maturing and starting to understand and really starting to believe in themselves and what they can do," said Dismuke, who led the Cougars to their first NCAA Regional team appearance since 2006. "We showed a lot of growth as a program out there today."
Ross led the charge with back-to-back birdies on holes 17 and 18 to finish with a team-best even-par 71 on the 7,253-yard University of Georgia Golf Course. The Edinburgh, Scotland, native was tied for 25th at 144.
Freshman Roman Robledo and sophomore Jesse Droemer each drained birdies on the 567-yard, par-5 17th hole to lead the Cougars. Robledo was tied for 31st at 145, while Droemer finished the day tied for 45th at 146.
Curtis Reed, who set an NCAA Regional record for the Cougars on Thursday with an opening-round 66, was tied for 20th at 143 but ended his day with four straight pars to help the late surge. Junior Will Dusenbury ended the Second Round tied for 63rd at 152.
A stiff wind and challenging pin locations gave the Cougars trouble early in the round. The team posted a combined 20 bogeys on the front nine and found itself in 12th place in the 13-team field early on its back nine.
"We just got rattled early. It was a rough start, but we tried to make the guys regain their focus and try to grind through this round," Dismuke said. "We didn't get a lot of good looks at the hole until late, but when we did, we converted them. We didn't play great, but we battled and gave ourselves a chance to be competitive and earn a spot (to the NCAA Championships)."
No. 4 Alabama led the Regional after 36 holes at 545, 12 strokes ahead of No. 33 East Carolina. No. 10 North Florida (562), host and 24th-ranked Georgia (568) and No. 16 New Mexico (575) rounded out the top-five team leaders.
UNC Wilmington stood in sixth place at 577. Following the Cougars, LBSU and Wake Forest, No. 45 Augusta State (579), No. 27 Iowa (581), UT Arlington (587) and Loyola (Md.) (599) rounded out the rest of the field.
Individually, Alabama's Bobby Wyatt led the Regional at 133 to finish one stroke ahead of teammate Justin Thomas. East Carolina's Ryan Eibner finished third at 135, while North Florida's Kevin Aylwin stood in fourth at 136.
Long Beach State's Philip Chian was tied for seventh at -3 and ranks as the leading individual not on a top-five team through the Second Round.
The Regional wraps with the Final Round on Saturday morning. Competitors will start play at 6:30 a.m. (CDT) off holes No. 1 and No. 10.
Paired with Wake Forest and Long Beach State, the Cougars start the Final Round at 6:30 a.m. (CDT) when Dusenbury tees off. From there, Droemer, Robledo, Ross and Reed will follow approximately every 10 minutes.
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