FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – On any other day, Kansas senior Chris Gilbert would be pleased with a top-10 tournament finish but his tie for eighth at the NCAA Fayetteville Regional fell short of the mark to advance to the 2013 NCAA Men’s Golf Championship and ended his collegiate career Saturday.
Gilbert birdied two out of the last three holes, including his final hole as a Jayhawk, to log his 12th career top-10 finish while shooting 73-72-73—218 (+2) at Blessings Golf Club. Gilbert finished five strokes off the lead, behind tournament-champion, and low individual not on a qualifying team, Mario Clemens (3-under 213) of SMU.
“I played well all three rounds, just had some bad stretches had a couple of weird breaks,” Gilbert said. “You never know what’s going to happen. I was a little bit of an SMU fan there for a second, hoping they’d be in the top-five, because I knew Mario Clemens would hang in there. I wanted to win everything but the most important thing was to survive.”
While the machines left Gilbert alone – a software glitch added 147 strokes to his round early Friday – he didn’t escape the third round without another collision with the abnormal. Gilbert, who started on the 10th hole again, hit a shot on No. 14 that bounced off the rules official’s golf cart as it crossed the fairway. Gilbert still made par on the hole, but it left the Simi Valley, Calif., native and Kansas head coach Jamie Bermel scratching their heads.
“He still made par on the hole, but it’s one of those things where you ask yourself, where did that come from,” Bermel said.
Gilbert was as low as 2-under for the round after back-to-back birdies on Nos. 12 and 13 but bogeyed four of five while making the turn, including three straight to move to 2-over.
“On the front nine it got out of hand a little bit with the bogeys, then I had a good sand save to stop the bleeding,” Gilbert said. “I tried to keep my composure and finish. I’m glad I could end with a couple birdies – the key was to calm down and take it shot by shot. The last hole was one of the easier ones, so I took advantage of it.
Illinois claimed the regional title with a 282-292-289—863 (-1), while Arkansas (866), Texas (880), Oklahoma State (882) and Kent State (892) all punched their tickets to Atlanta by finishing in the top five. SMU finished three strokes behind Kent State at 895 (+31) for the tournament.
“I played alright, gave myself a chance – it just wasn’t enough,” Gilbert said. “I was a little sad it was the end, but I didn’t feel bad. I didn’t leave anything out there effort-wise. I’m going to go right back to playing golf this summer and hopefully I have a lot of golf ahead of me in my lifetime.”
Gilbert closed his season with a 72.02 scoring average, the third-best by a Kansas golfer since the current records started in the mid-1980s.