USC Headed To NCAA Championships Final

    Junior Anthony Paolucci finished second at the NCAA Sugar Grove Regional at 1-under.

    May 17, 2014

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    Junior Anthony Paolucci's final-round 69 was low for the day and helped lead No. 16 USC men's golf tie for fourth and capture one of the five NCAA final spots up for grabs as play closed at the NCAA Sugar Grove (Ill.) Regional at Rich Harvest Farms on Saturday (May 17).

    The Trojans, playing again in the 40s and 50s in the Illinois spring, seesawed between third and sixth throughout the third round as five teams jockeyed for the final three spots and finished at 32-over 896 (302-292-302), sharing fourth with Cal, the region's top seed. Illinois took first at 9-over 880 while UAB was second at 18-over 882. Purdue took third at 30-over 894. Clemson, in the mix all day, fell back to sixth at 19-over 898 while Kent State's late charge wasn't quite enough as it finished seventh at 36-over 900.

    USC is headed to the finals for the eighth consecutive season in Coach Chris Zambri's eighth year at the helm.

    "We are thrilled to get through," Zambri said. "It wasn't easy in any way. In order to compete next week we must play better from top to bottom. We couldn't be happier that we have the opportunity to win a national title."

    Paolucci claimed second at 1-under 215 (73-73-69) with his highest finish since his first collegiate win in February. Even through 16 holes, he came through with an eagle on 17 - his second of the day which came on a wedge from over the green that trickled in - and birdied 18 to get to 3-under for the day. Only Illinois's Brian Campbell was better at 5-under 211.

    "The course played difficult today," Paolucci said. "I'm glad the guys hung in there all three days to advance to finals. We are obviously very excited that we are moving on. We have some work to do the next few days so that we can make a run at the title."

    Freshman Rico Hoey registered his team-best seventh top 7 finish, tying for sixth at 4-over 220 (75-70-75). He was 3-over through 6 before a birdie on 9 and a bogey on 10. He finished with eight straight pars for the top 10 finish.

    Junior Paul Smith tied for 37th at 15-over 231 (75-75-81) while senior Jeffrey Kang tied for 42nd at 17-over 233 (79-74-80) and junior Eric Sugimoto tied for 47th at 19-over 235 (81-76-78).

    The NCAA Championships at Prairie Dunes C.C. in Hutchinson, Kan., will feature 30 teams from six regionals. The top eight teams after 54 holes between May 23-25 will move onto a match-play playoff from May 26-29.

    USC has advanced to the match-play final just once in the current format, which came in its first year in 2009. The Trojans fell to Michigan, 3&2, in the quarterfinals that year.