East Lake Cup: USC, Vanderbilt nab closely-contested match play wins on final day
If you like your golf with a heavy dose of drama, Wednesday's match play finals at the East Lake Cup were made for you.
USC’s women’s team and Vanderbilt’s men’s team ended their respective matches as champions, but not before the women of Stanford and men of Illinois put up stiff fights, including a pair of matches that came down to the very last hole of the course.
On the women’s side, USC’s Robynn Ree, who won individual stroke play, fought tooth and nail with Stanford’s Shannon Aubert. After a roller coaster front nine, Ree held a lead for six holes until Aubert evened the match with a birdie on the 12th.
The match remained deadlocked until Ree topped Aubert on hole 16, and then, with the pressure on at the end of the roaming par-five 18th, Ree dropped an impressive par put for what would prove to be the closest match of the day between the two squads.
The win is the Trojans' second in the last three years at the East Lake Cup.
As for the men, a one-stroke match between Vanderbilt’s Harrison Ott and Illinois’ Brendan O’Reilly was the closest of the afternoon, as Ott’s birdie on the 17th hole wound up being the decisive stroke.
Elsewhere on the course, the Illini had two different players with leads — Nick Hardy in a dead heat with the Commodores’ Patrick Martin, and Dylan Meyer with Theo Humphrey — before Vanderbilt’s John Augenstein lifted the Commodores to victory with a 4 & 3 win over Giovanni Tadiotto.
In the tournament’s consolation brackets, Arizona State’s women topped Northwestern, 2-1-2, and Oklahoma’s men downed Oregon, 4-1-0.
Ree and Vanderbilt’s Will Gordon were decidedly the stars of the three-day tournament; the two won individual stroke play on Monday before providing their teams with crucial points in both rounds of match play on Tuesday and Wednesday; Illinois’ Nick Hardy (tied for second in stroke play, with a point and a lead in match play) and Arizona State’s Olivia Mehaffey (tied for second in stroke play, with points in both match play rounds) both had strong showings as well.