By Andrew Tan
Clutch play from junior David Snyder and freshman Daulet Tuleubayev helped Stanford men’s golf punch its ticket to the NCAA Championship Final, which will be held on Tuesday at Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The sixth-seeded Cardinal took down No. 3 Wake Forest and No. 2 Vanderbilt in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively. Stanford will match up against No. 5 Texas in the final looking for its ninth national title and first since 2007.
Stanford qualified for match-play by putting together four strong rounds from Friday to Monday. The Cardinal burst out of the gates to start the tournament in second after the first round and maintained that position, either in sole possession or in a tie for second, for the next two days. After Sunday, the field was cut down to the top 15 teams, and it appeared likely that Stanford would qualify for match play.
A shaky start on the front nine on Monday, however, left the possibility of a collapse and crash out of the tournament, heading into the back nine of the fourth round. Nevertheless, Stanford would steady and take the sixth spot at the end of the day.
Match play began Tuesday morning with eight teams in contention for the final and Stanford facing seemingly long odds to reach Wednesday. The field included five of the top six nationally-ranked teams — No. 1 Oklahoma State, No. 3 Wake Forest, No. 4 Vanderbilt, No. 5 Texas and No. 6 Oklahoma — while the Cardinal entered the tournament ranked 10th.
Despite contesting elite teams, Stanford kept its cool and continued to play solid team golf, receiving key contributions from up and down the five-man lineup.
Snyder sealed the quarterfinal victory for Stanford with a match-deciding eight-foot putt to push the Cardinal past Wake Forest and onto the afternoon semifinal. Though Snyder’s clutch shot was the story of the morning, Salinda and Wu’s contributions were equally important to Stanford’s 3-2 match play upset of the Demon Deacons.
The dynamic senior duo of Isaiah Salinda and Brandon Wu reminded Cardinal fans just how much the team will miss them next year as both seniors continued to anchor the Stanford squad.
Salinda left no doubt in his matchup, putting his opponent away with a win on 17 to push him to three up with one hole remaining and thus ending the match. Salinda’s play was particularly impressive because he was down four holes at one point before winning six consecutive holes to take a two-hole led.
Meanwhile, Wu made even quicker work of his counterpart, going four up with three holes to go to cut his match three holes short of 18.
After a quick turnaround from the quarterfinal match, Stanford began play against Vanderbilt in the late morning about a half hour before noon.
Again, Salinda and Wu did not allow their matches to go the full 18 holes, with Salinda up three with two holes remaining and Wu up four with three left. Still, the final moments of the showdown between the Cardinal and the Commodores came down to the last hole yet again.
Tuleubayev had a four-hole lead heading into the final five holes and needed only one more win to secure Stanford’s place in the final. Over the next four holes, he lost three and tied one, cutting his lead down to one with only the 18th hole remaining. Tuleubayev’s opponent, Harrison Ott, put the pressure on him on the last hole — sinking a birdie putt and forcing Tuleubayev to sink an 18-footer to tie the hole and avoid extra holes to decide the match.
Cool and collected, Tuleubayev guided the ball into the cup and the celebration was on for the Stanford.
The finals appearance is the program’s first since 2008 when Stanford finished runner-up to UCLA. The squad matches up against fifth-seeded Texas, who defeated Oklahoma and Oklahoma State en route to the final, tomorrow beginning at 4:45 a.m. PST.
Contact Andrew Tan at tandrew ‘at’ stanford.edu.