SIMPSONVILLE, Ky. — Mounting a final-day charge at its NCAA golf regional, West Virginia nearly claimed one of the five national qualifier spots, but ultimately fell two strokes shy.
Sean Covich, after directing the program to its first postseason tournament appearance in 72 years, tried to help his five-man crew process the disappointment of such a razor-thin margin played out across three days and more than 1,100 combined shots.
“They’re disappointed, but it shows our guys that we belong, that we’re not just a part of the Big 12 Conference and NCAA golf by wearing the logos,” Covich said. “It shows that we really belong in the mix of the best teams out there.”
Regional winner Oklahoma State shot 7-under Wednesday on the par-71 course to finish the 54-hole event at -14. Other teams advancing to nationals were Auburn (-10), Baylor (-7), host Louisville (+7) and North Florida (+8).
On the fringe sat West Virginia, which finished at 10-over for the regional, but played its best golf while firing a final-round 1-under.
“I told the guys this should show you how good you are and what your expectations should be next year,” Covich said. “Hey, let’s get two shots better.”
Beginning the day eight shots off the qualifying pace, WVU erased that deficit and briefly climbed into fifth place with a strong showing on the front nine.
“It got interesting real quick,” Covich said.
Logan Perkins (71) birdied No. 1 and No. 4 and Philipp Matlari (71) strung together three straight birdies on the fourth through sixth holes.
When Matthew Sharpstene hit a 260-yard 2-iron to set up a 20-foot eagle putt on No. 4, the Mountaineers were energized.
“We knew we weren’t out of it,” said the sophomore, whose 1-under 70 was WVU’s top score Wednesday.
West Virginia’s competition for the final two spots boiled down to No. 21 Louisville, which was playing on its home course, and No. 18 North Florida.
The survivors capitalized on the final three holes — UNF shooting 5-under and Louisville playing them even. The Mountaineers were 4-over on Nos. 16 through 18.
“I know the guys are thinking about what we left out there on the last two or three holes, but what we did on Monday and Tuesday mattered just as much as what we did today,” Covich said.
While West Virginia dropped Etienne Papineau’s 2-over 73, Louisville and North Florida discounted rounds of 6-over and 8-over by their worst final-day performers.
WVU’s Max Sear, a senior who witnessed the program’s growing pains, concluded his college career by shooting par on Wednesday.
“The first couple years were really hard and you didn’t really see what the future held for us,” he said. “We not only made it here, but we were two shots out of making it to nationals. We’ve come a long way.”