May 18, 2008
Chattanooga, Tenn. - Western Carolina senior golfer Matt Cook just missed the final transfer spot to qualify for the NCAA National Championship Saturday, leading the Catamounts with a career-best 16th-place finish at the NCAA East Regional held at the par 71, 6,961 Council Fire Golf Club. WCU finished tied for 20th overall in the 27-team field with a 54-hole score of 864.
After posting birdie on the par 3, 206-yard 17th, Cook needed to at least par the final hole of the three-day event to force a play-off for one of the two final transfer spots to qualify for the national championship at seven-under par. However, the Murphy, N.C., native hit into a hazard and shot double-bogey on the par 4, 484-yard 18th to finish his final round with a two-over, 73, for a three-day total of five-under, 208.
Cook's final score tied for the third-best, individual 54-hole score in school history, two off the all-time record of 206 also carded by Cook this season. This weekend's score for Cook was 15 strokes lower than his previous NCAA tournament low of 223 fired last year in the 2007 East Regional. His score was also eight shots lower than the 219 he posted during the season-opening Scenic City Invitational held at the same course back in September.
All told, Cook finished tied for seventh with 15 birdies with one eagle, and was tied for 10th with a seven-under scoring average on the par 5 holes during the tournament.
Western's team 864 for the event ranks as the fifth-best in school history. Three of the best rounds in the WCU record book were shot this season, including the lowest team, three-round score of 843 at the Xavier Invitational and the third-best, 860, carded at the Mizuno Southbridge Intercollegiate - both coming during the fall of 2007.
Overall, 10 teams and two individuals on non-advancing teams move on to the NCAA Finals at Purdue May 28-31. The teams are Georgia - which blistered the field with a 41-under, 811, to win by 21 strokes over second-place, Augusta State; Cal-Irvine, Mississippi State, UAB, Auburn, Charlotte, East Tennessee State, Middle Tennessee and Virginia. The individuals qualifying for nationals are Georgia State's Joel Sjoholm (-8) and Virginia Tech's Jurrian van der Vaart (-7).
Event host and Southern Conference champion, Chattanooga, finished tied for 12th.
WCU junior Andres Cuenca posted the best final round for Western with a one-over, 72, to finish tied for 100th with a three-day score of 221, tied for his fourth-best outing of the season. Cuenca was as low as two-under on the back nine, but bogeyed three of his final five holes to finish over par.
Rounding out Western's scores at the event were junior transfer Dustin Furnari and sophomore Ricky Stout who finished tied for 104 with identical, 54-hole scores of 222, with freshman teammate Caleb Marsh one stroke in arrears at 223 in a tie for 113th in the 141-golfer field.
Western Carolina concludes its 2007-08 season after making its' first-ever trip to a NCAA Regional as a squad. On the season, the Catamounts recorded eight top 10 finishes, including six inside the top five as a team with one team championship and a pair of runner-up finishes.