NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (Purdue Sports) — There's clutch and then there is what Cole Bradley was on the back nine of the final round of the NCAA Golf Regionals at the Sagamore Golf Club.
Facing a three-shot deficit with just seven holes to play, the Harrison graduate birdied five of the last seven holes to win his first career collegiate tournament in stunning fashion. Bradley totaled a 10-under par 206 (72-69-65) to defeat West Virginia's Mark Goetz by two shots (74-66-68=208).
"This feels great to get my first career win at a great venue like this and in regionals. It really hasn't hit me yet," said Bradley. "I missed a short birdie putt on 11, and had to shake that off and keep going. I made a couple good putts to get me going again and just made some good swings down the stretch. The fact I was able to play really solid all week does a lot for my confidence and will really help me next week."
Playing in the final pairing of the tournament, the duo waged a memorable battle in the final round as the gallery grew around them.
Goetz started the day in fourth (-4) and Bradley in seventh (-3) as the leaders were at 6-under par entering the final round. Goetz took the lead early in the round, moving to 7-under par through nine holes while Bradley was 5-under par. Arkansas State's Zan Luka Stim would take the lead at 8-under par through 14 holes for him, putting three shots between him and Bradley down the stretch.
"We didn't really focus on that and talked about the same thing all three days. Let's worry about what we can control which was his shot-making and forget everything else. I had to remind him a couple times and he had to remind me once on the back nine. I think he just hit some really solid tee shots and irons and executed on the greens," said head coach Rob Bradley. "Today, he wasn't in trouble at all and never got out of position. That was the story of his round."
Goetz (-8) and Bradley (-6) would both birdie 12, then Bradley started his surge. He rolled in a 25-foot birdie on 13 to cut the lead to one shot, then shared the lead after 15 holes with Missouri's Ross Steelman at 8-under par with another birdie, while Goetz fell one back with a bogey on the par-5 15th.
Goetz would birdie 16 to tie Bradley at 8-under par, while Stim and Steelman fell off pace with late bogeys. The pair headed to the difficult 235-yard, par-3 17th hole, a hole that played the hardest during the tournament, a full half-stroke over par.
Bradley threw a dart to about four feet to a difficult hole location, resulting in the round's only birdie on the hole to take a one-shot lead into the par-5 18th hole.
On the final hole, Goetz's approach landed about four feet from the hole, while Bradley sailed the green on his second shot. Thinking Goetz would make birdie, Bradley put his chip to about six feet. Bradley rolled in the birdie putt to clinch his first career victory.
"I thought Cole played really well the first two rounds and let some things slip away. He made one big number in the first round and there were a few spots yesterday that we didn't take advantage of, but it was as good as I have seen him hit his irons and he putted great all week. There was something special in there if he could get it going," said head coach Rob Bradley.
Meanwhile, Joe Weiler closed out his season with another outstanding effort, finishing tied for 10th at 3-under par 213 (70-72-71), for his fourth top-10 finish in eight events this spring. Weiler played outstanding golf the last month of the year, finishing fourth at the Boilermaker Invitational, 25th at the Robert Kepler Intercollegiate, second at the Big Ten Championships and 10th in the NCAA Regionals.
"I thought Joe had an outstanding week and he played great golf all season, especially the last month," said Rob Bradley. "He was in position all week and was just really steady in all phases. The last two events really showed what he is capable of and we're looking forward to him coming back next fall."
Weiler started the round with a bang, recording three straight birdies to surge to second place at 5-under par. He bogeyed No. 4, but birdied Nos. 7 and 9 to move to 6-under par for his round and one shot out of the lead. Double bogeys on 10 and 16 ended his threat, but he remained in the top 10 for the second straight week.
Bradley will now head to Grayhawk Golf Club and the Raptor Course in Scottsdale, Arizona, for the NCAA National Championships on May 28 to June 2.