April 22, 2012
Virginia sophomore golfer Ben Rusch drained a five-foot par putt on the final hole to win the 2012 ACC Championships by a single stroke and become the first Cavalier to capture the individual title since 1955. Rusch, a native of Weinfelden, Switzerland, shot 3-under 69 during Sunday’s cool, rainy conditions at the Old North State Club in New London, N.C, for a 54-hole total of 10-under 206.
Rusch’s victory helped No. 20 Virginia to a second-place finish in the team competition. The Cavaliers shot 1-over 289 during the final round for a three-day total of 20-under 844. That bettered the UVa team scoring record at the ACC Championships by four shots. The 1992 team held the previous best mark at 16-under 848 recorded at Northgreen Country Club in Rocky Mount, N.C.
Georgia Tech won its fourth straight ACC title at 27-under 837. Florida State was third at 847, three shots behind UVa. The Yellow Jackets entered the final round with an 11-shot lead on the Cavaliers. Virginia managed to close that to four shots at one point during the round.
Rusch said he was surprised to learn he was only the second Cavalier golfer to bring home the individual crown since Pete Arend won the title in 1955.
“I didn’t know that and it makes me so proud,” Rusch said. “I just played and didn’t want to control anything and it just happened. I hit some great shots and made some good putts. I didn't really make any putts the first two rounds. I missed many but today I actually made a lot.”
Virginia’s showing marked the second time in three years the Cavaliers have been the tournament runner-up. The 2010 squad was second at 10-under 854. UVa had placed second just twice over the previous 56 seasons before its runner-up finish in 2010.
Rusch started the final round in fifth place after turning in scores of 5-under 67 Friday and 2-under 70 on Saturday. Georgia Tech’s Richard Werenski entered Sunday atop the leaderboard by one shot but carded a 4-over 76 to drop back to a tie for seventh place at 211.
Rusch posted a pair of birdies on his front nine to make the turn at 2-under. He then managed three consecutive birdies on holes 10, 11 and 12 to grab the tournament lead. Rusch struggled with a pair of bogeys on holes 15 and 16 before finishing with two pars to claim the title.
“I was really nervous,” Rusch said about his closing holes. “The shot I hit into the water on 16, I was just trying to get up and down for a five. I didn't want to look at the scoreboard but it actually happened. I saw that I was one ahead. On 17 (par three), I thought I hit a good shot but it went into the bunker. I didn't really think much about it and I hit a great shot right up by the cup. On 18, I just tried to stay dry. It (putt) was four to five feet and I knew it would be straight because coach told me it was. I just tried to make a good stroke.”
Rusch’s best finish this season was a third-place effort at The Palmetto in Aiken, S.C. Last year he picked up his first collegiate victory by winning the 36-hole Cavalier Classic at 9-under135. He did not play in the ACC Championships last season.
Rusch had plenty of help leading the Cavaliers to a second-place finish.
Virginia freshman Denny McCarthy was fourth in his first ACC Championship appearance. After shooting 7-under 65, tying the best single-round score by an ACC competitor in 11 years of competition at The Old North State Club, McCarthy finished at 7-under 209. He shot 73 during the final round. It was his fifth top-10 outing this season.
UVa senior Ben Kohles, the ACC player of the year in 2010 and 2011, shot 74 Sunday to place 12th at 3-under 213. Bruce Woodall was 29th at 219 and freshman Ji Soo Park was 32nd at 200. Woodall shot 73 during the final round while Park carded a round of 74 that included a hole in one on the par-3, 211-yard third hole.
The Cavaliers will next compete at an NCAA Regional site May 19-21.