New Haven, Conn. – The Penn State men’s golf team competed against some of the highest ranked teams in the country at the 2010 East Regional qualifying tournament and proved that they belong among the elite. Nearly knocking off two top-ten ranked teams in No. 6 UCLA and No. 7 Texas the Nittany Lions finished fourth securing their bid to the 2010 NCAA Finals in Chattanooga, Tenn. Standout performances came from both seniors T.J. Howe (Osceola, Pa.) who finished tied for first and Kevin Foley (Somerville, N.J.) who wrapped up tied for fourth.
"So many exciting things happened out here today that I can’t even explain," said head coach Greg Nye. "We were the definition of team; playing with all the heart, composure, and belief that we could."
Penn State has earned its spot in the NCAA Final line-up after its 17th Regional appearance in the last 18 years under Nye. The trip to the Finals is the team’s fourth emergence under Nye (’96, ’04, ’08, ’10). Heading into the East Regional qualifier the Nittany Lions ranked 67th in the country and 11th among their field.
Knowing that only the top-five teams would advance to the Finals, the Nittany Lions were easily overlooked but were ready to prove themselves worthy. With exceptional play throughout all 54 holes, the Penn State team shocked the collegiate-golf world outplaying higher-ranked opponents such as No. 17 South Carolina, No. 19 Virginia, No. 29 Alabama, No. 32 East Tennessee State, No. 42 Southeastern Louisiana, No. 47 Charlotte, and No. 56 Vanderbilt, to earn its spot.
Howe made Penn State history as he walked off the Yale links tying for first, the best individual regional finish by any Nittany Lion golfer. Howe’s first-place tie marks his second first-place finish of his Lion career, finishing in first at the 2009 Pinehurst Intercollegiate. Howe blazed through the final 18 posting a career-low 4-under par, 66, beating his previous personal best, 67, posted at the 2009 Pinehurst Intercollegiate. The Pennsylvania native carded rounds of 69-68-66 (203) to share the East Regional title with Rhys Enoch of Eastern Tennessee State.
"T.J. was fantastic and he did everything right after missing a couple of short putts early in the round," said Nye. "All I can say is that he can compete!"
"It was an up and down day for me today," said Howe. "I started out the day slow, then made three birdies in a row, a few pars, then another three birdies. It was back and forth with me making the puts or coming up close."
Another groundbreaking performance came from the clubs of two-time All-American and All- Big Ten selection, Foley, who tied for fourth with a 4-under par tournament finish. Entering the tournament ranked 47th in the country, Foley posted rounds of 67-67-72 (206), just two strokes back of medalist honors. The senior heads into his final tournament as a Nittany Lion with six first-place individual titles and numerous conference awards including Big Ten Freshman of the Year and Big Ten golfer of the Week.
"It means so much to be a senior and to be a part of the class that brings the team back to the Finals," said Howe. "Having Foley and Markovitz with me is great since we came in here together and are going out together. I am happy for both of those guys and I know that we are all looking forward to what we can do in Tennessee."
Contributing to Penn State’s team total was Junior Tommy McDonough (East Norwalk, Conn.) who finished at 5-over par tied for 41st with rounds of 72-76-67 (215). Freshman Ernesto Marin (Miami, Fla.) concluded play tied for 46th at 6-over par with rounds of 69-74-73 (216). Rounding out the line-up for the Nittany Lions was senior (Bridgeville, Pa.) who shot his best round of the tournament, 72, to post a 12-over par, 222, performance. Markovitz tied for 58th with a card of 76-74-72.
Penn State enters the 30-team field as the highest numerically ranked team. The battle will take place at The Honors Course in Chattanooga, Tenn., June 1-6. The Pete Dye design measures 7,395 yards at a par 72.
"What makes the trip to Chattanooga special is that in 1996 we took the team to the Finals at the Honors Course," said Nye.
T1. Kent State
4. Penn State