When it comes to excitement, the match-play format in college golf often lives up to the hype.
That trend continued Sunday in the SEC Championship final, a battle between archrivals Auburn and Alabama. It was an Iron Bowl matchup for college golf, and it came to an astonishing conclusion.
The Tigers edged out the Crimson Tide, 3-2, at Sea Island Golf Club’s Seaside Course in St. Simons Island, Ga., to earn an SEC title. But they only pulled it out after epic deciding match.
The matches were tied 2-2 as the final duo of Wells Padgett (Auburn) and Jonathan Hardee (Alabama) played their last two holes.
Padgett was 2 up at that point and just needed to halve one of the final two holes to close out his match and give Auburn the SEC title. But Hardee didn’t shy away, in fact nearly acing the par-3 17th on his way to a kick-in birdie and a win to push the match to 18.
Jonathan Hardee nearly aced the par 3 17th hole! Nevertheless, Hardee birdies it and we are all square going to Hole No. 18! Incredible shot by the senior from Greer, S.C.! #RollTide pic.twitter.com/nsMPFrieac
— Alabama Men’s Golf (@AlabamaMGolf) April 29, 2018
The senior had the momentum and it made sense that turn would unnerve his freshman opponent. Uhh, not quite.
Padgett played the 18th textbook and left himself a slippery 20-footer for birdie to close out a 1-up win and the championship.
He hit a perfect putt that he knew was in a good 5 feet from the cup.
What a moment.
The celebration came after Auburn had clinched its first SEC Championship crown in 16 years. The No. 7 Tigers were Golfweek‘s fourth-highest ranked team in a loaded SEC field this year and played exactly to that billing in the stroke-play portion.
Auburn posted an 8-over 848 to finish in a tie for fourth in stroke play, and with the top eight squads making match play, they easily moved on.
The fourth-seeded Tigers pulled out a narrow 3-2 triumph over No. 5 Arkansas in the quarterfinals and then downed top-seeded LSU, 4-1, in the semis.
Alabama, which also posted 8-over 848 but earned the sixth seed, defeated No. 3 Vanderbilt – the defending champs – 3-2 in the quarters and took down Florida, 3-1-1, in the semis. The Crimson Tide actually earned the first two points in the final, as Lee Hodges defeated Jovan Rebula, 2 and 1, in the opening match and Davis Shore blitzed Ryan Knop, 6 and 5, in the third match.
But Trace Crowe made a statement with a 2-and-1 in the second match over Davis Riley, and Brandon Mancheno followed with his own 2-and-1 triumph over Wilson Furr. And then Padgett stepped up to close things out.
After going winless in their first five events of the season, the Tigers have now won four of their last six.
You can keep up with all men’s conference championship results here. Coverage of women’s conference championships reside here.