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ASU Golf: Devils fall short against UNC, eliminated from NCAA tournament in quarterfinals

ASU couldn’t hold its late-hole lead

Syndication: Arizona Republic Rob Schumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Arizona State’s Men’s Golf season ended in heartbreaking fashion after falling to the University of North Carolina, 3-1. The Devils led in three of their five matches for most of the round before the golf gods, as ASU coach Matt Thurmond said, decided today wasn’t the Devil’s day.

“It was kind of shocking at the end,” Thurmond said. “It was a pretty crazy series of things that had to happen to flip it like that so quickly. They say golf is a game of inches, but really, it was.”

Freshman Michael Mjaaseth eyed down what may have been the biggest putt of his life for birdie and a sliver of hope for the Sun Devils. Make it and ASU would tie UNC and have a shot at a possible playoff, miss it and go home.

Thurmond and Mjaaseth both read the green and decided the line before Mjaaseth pulled the trigger on his 23-foot putt.

“I’m watching that putt, it’s dead center, it peeps over the edge and then actually just kind of rolls back,” Thurmond said. “That’s just not supposed to happen.”

That was just one of the oddities that didn’t go Arizona State’s way Tuesday morning.

On the 17th hole, Michael’s tee shot landed just above the right-side bunker, then trickled down into the pit in “probably the worst spot it could be,” Thurmond added.

On the 18th, Ford, who is arguably UNC’s best golfer, plopped his shot onto the skirt of the green, where it — by some stroke of luck — didn’t carry into the bunker just beneath it.

Had Ford’s ball found the sand, it would’ve left him with a near-impossible up and down.

However, Thurmond acknowledged that when you have two teams and 10 great players going head to head, a concoction of magic and skill is needed.

Josele Ballester was ASU’s lone scorer to secure a point, defeating Austin Greaser by two.

“I knew the first two guys lost (Potter and Johnston), so we needed to win all three to make It,” Ballester said. “I just tried to stay very focused and do my thing. I knew it was going to be tough for me as well and I could close the match on the last hole, so that was great for us.”

Luke Potter was the first to tee off for ASU Tuesday morning, doing so with Dylan Menante. Menante was able to control the round and win 5 and 3.

Two years ago Ryggs Johnston took down Ryan Burnett 4 and 3 in match play, but this year was different. Johnston found himself down four early against Burnett before finding his groove.

Johnston was able to cut the deficit to one, but that was as close as he would get. Burnett secured UNC’s second point in match point by one stroke.

Preston Summerhays was able to control the majority of his round against Peter Fountain, but UNC secured its three points as the match made it to the 18th box. Both Summerhays and Fountain drove the green on the par-4 17th, but Fountain was able to sink an eagle, which sank Summerhays’ one stroke lead.

Arizona State had four sophomores or younger on its 2023 roster, and will be competitive again next year as they return with experience both during the season and with amateur tournaments, including the U.S. Open qualifier and British amateur.

“The boys don’t have time to wallow in self-pity; I do,” Thurmond said laughing. For him, the offseason includes lots of recruiting and being depressed for “a few weeks, maybe a few months, maybe all year.”

Arizona State was a top-five team all season and was one of only two other teams to make match play in the last year NCAA Championships at Grayhawk.