CARDIAC KIDS: No. 1 Auburn advances to program’s first national final with wins over Virginia, Ohio State

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Auburn defeated Virginia and Ohio State Tuesday to advance to its first national finals appearance. (Todd Drexler/sesportsmedia.com)

CARLSBAD, Calif. – For the first time in program history, Auburn men’s golf will play for a national championship as the Tigers used all five players to grind out a pair of wins against No. 9 Virginia and Ohio State Tuesday in the semifinal and quarterfinal matches of the 2024 NCAA Championship at the Omni La Costa Champions Course.

Auburn faces No. 6 Florida State in the winner-take-all match of the tournament Wednesday, May 29 with the first tee time slated for 4:25 p.m. CT. Golf Channel will broadcast the finale beginning at 5 p.m. CT.

“We’ve had a great year but it’s unfinished,” Auburn head coach Nick Clinard said. “The job’s not finished. We are going up against a great Florida State team. It’s going to be an all-out battle tomorrow.”

Both of Auburn’s matches on Tuesday were won by the outstanding Freshman Jackson Koivun. The rookie from Chapel Hill, North Carolina single-handedly punched the Tigers’ ticket into the final with a gutsy win on the 21st hole of his semifinal match.

“We’re playing for so much here,” Koivun said. “I didn’t want to let my team, my school, my coaches down.”

In the quarters against Virginia, Auburn jumped out early with leads in four of its matches. Junior Carson Bacha took a lead into the fourth hole of his duel and never looked back. He threw the first point on the board with a draw on the 17th hole to give Auburn the early edge.

Next, freshman Josiah Gilbert extended his career match play record to 4-0 with a 2&1 defeat of the Cavaliers’ Bryan Lee. Like Bacha, Gilbert never trailed in his match as he was leading for 11 holes and tied for six.

Koivun put the nail in the coffin on course No. 9, the same hole that saw an unlucky break on a bounce off the flag stick during his run at individual medalist. A missed putt from Virginia’s Deven Patel opened the door for the Koivun to end it in 18, and he did just that, sinking an eight-foot putt to set up a date with Ohio State in the semifinals.

Unlike the start against Virginia, Auburn trailed the Buckeyes early in four of five matches, and at the turn, Ohio State held a 3-2 advantage. Junior Brendan Valdes sparked Auburn’s comeback with massive back-to-back hole wins on 13 and 14 to flip the match from one down to one up. Valdes forced ties on his final four holes to defeat Jackson Chandler, 1-Up.

Ohio State roared back with two points of its own, but senior J.M. Butler remained unphased and handled his opponent, Neal Shipley, 2&1 to level the match at two-all. Butler’s duel was a rematch of the semifinal from the 2023 U.S. Amateur where Shipley came from behind to defeat Butler, denying him an opportunity at the championship.

After a few back-and-forth blows on the early holes of the match, Butler picked up a hole win on No. 6 for a one-up lead, which was all he needed as he commanded the match for the final 11 holes before closing it out on 17.

Koivun took a one-point lead into 18, needing a tie to secure the Auburn win, however, a late push from the Buckeye’s Adam Wallin swiped the lead away on the final hole of regulation, sending the match to sudden death. Both men tied the first two playoff holes before a masterful birdie on the 21st hole from Koivun sealed the deal.

Quarterfinal Match: (6) Auburn def. (3) Virginia, 3-1-1

Carson Bacha def. Josh Duangmanee, 2&1

George Duangmanee def. Brendan Valdes, 2&1

Josiah Gilbert def. Bryan Lee, 2&1

Jackson Koivun def. Deven Patel, 1UP

J.M. Butler TIED Ben James (15 Holes)

Semifinal Match: (6) Auburn def. (7) Ohio State, 3-2

Maxwell Moldovan def. Carson Bacha, 1UP

Brendan Valdes def. Jackson Chandler, 1UP

Tyler Sabo def. Josiah Gilbert, 1UP

Jackson Koivun def. Adam Wallin, 21 Holes

J.M. Butler def. Neal Shipley, 2&1