Atlanta, Ga.—Zack Gordon made a 20-foot birdie putt on the third playoff hole to defeat Grayson Porter and give fourth ranked Clemson a 3-2 victory over second-ranked Florida State in the Atlantic Coast Conference Match Play Championship on Monday. It was the 10th ACC title for head coach Larry Penley, who is retiring at the conclusion of this season.
Gordon’s 21-hole victory was the climax of an incredible comeback for the Tigers, who never had the overall lead in the match until Gordon’s putt. His birdie came on the 216-yard par three third hole and it was the only birdie of the tournament on that hole by any Clemson player. Clemson players had played the hole 25 times without a birdie in stroke play and match play until Gordon’s putt.
“Coach (Jordan) Byrd and I read the putt to be about two balls outside the hole and it broke just as we thought,” said Gordon who was Clemson’s number-five player in the lineup this week. Porter had a 18-foot putt from above the hole to attempt to tie the match, but the putt missed by inches and Clemson had its 11th ACC Championship in program history.
A look to the breakdown of each match reveals that Clemson had the lead after just 17 of the 88 holes that were played over the five matches. Gordon had the lead after just four of the 21 holes he played against Porter. The two players tied 18 of their 21 holes.
Florida State took a 2-0 lead by winning the number-three match and the number-one match. Brad Roberts made four birdies on the front nine and went on to defeat Clemson’s Turk Pettit, 6 & 5.
Colby Patton had a 1-up lead over Frederik Kjettrup through six holes, but the Florida State player then won three of the next four holes. Kjettrup had a three-up lead with three holes to play. Patton, who won the clinching match against NC State on Sunday, then won the 16th and 17th holes. But, when the players tied on 18, Kjettrup had the victory.
That meant Clemson had to win the last three matches on the course to win the Championship. Jon Pak, the number-one player in the nation according to all college golf rankings, had a 2-up lead on Clemson’s Jacob Bridgeman after 11 holes. But, Bridgeman won the 12th with a 40-foot birdie putt and the 15th with a par to tie the match. Bridgeman then won the match on the 18th hole with a par, as Pak three-putted from 50 feet. It was the only time Bridgeman had the lead in the match.
Kyle Cottam was 1-down after nine holes, but then won three of the next six holes to take a 2-up lead. He closed out the match with a par on 17. That win tied the overall score at 2-2, setting up the winner by Gordon.
“Florida State had all the momentum over the first nine holes,” said Clemson coach Larry Penley. “They made a lot of long putts and Jon Pak made a chipin from well off the green on nine against Jacob that was just a great shot.
“The 12th hole was big for us to get the momentum back. Jacob made a 40-foot birdie to win the hole and Kyle Cottam also won when Vincent Norrman missed a short putt.
“I really thought we were going to win this tournament in regulation when it appeared Zack was going to win the 18th hole. But, he three-putted and Porter made a great up and down to tie the hole. Zack went from goat to hero with the birdie on his 21st hole.
“Even after we were down 2-0, I thought we had a shot with the matches that were still out on the course. Zack was either even, or up one, or down one all day and I just felt Kyle would win his match. And Jacob is a great player going against a great player.”
This was Penley’s 83rd overall win, more than any coach in ACC history. “This is very special, I wasn’t sure I was going to get to 10 ACC championships. This was a lesson in hanging in there. We were never up (as a team) until Zack made the last putt. Our guys just fought all day. “
Clemson now awaits its NCAA Regional bid on May 5. The assignments will be announced that day on the Golf Channel. The Tigers are in great position to be a number-one seed at one of the six sites.
Results 2021 ACC Men’s Golf Championship
Clemson 3, Florida State 2
April 26, 2021
Capital City Crabapple Course, Atlanta, Ga.
1. Frederik Kjettrup (FSU) d. Colby Patton (Clem) 1-up
2. Zack Gordon (Clem) d. Grayson Porter (FSU), 21 holes
3. Brad Roberts (FSU) d. Turk Pettit (Clem) 6&5
4. Jacob Bridgeman (Clem) d. Jon Pak (FSU) 1 up
5. Kyle Cottam (Clem) d. Vincent Norrman (FSU) 2 & 1