ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. --- Vanderbilt and Texas A&M advanced to the match play finals of the Southeastern Conference Men's Golf Championship on Sunday by recording a pair of victories each at Sea Island Golf Club.
The Commodores and the Aggies will square off on the Seaside Course on Monday in 10-minute increments beginning at 7:30 a.m.
The SEC is utilizing an 8-team match play bracket to determine its team champion for the first time. And if drama and excitement were the goals, so far so good.
The top seed following stroke play on Saturday, the Commodores dispatched eighth-seeded Ole Miss 3-2 in the morning match as John Augustenstein, Will Gordon and Matthias Schwab recorded the wins.
In the afternoon, Vanderbilt's match against No. 4 seed Florida was deadlocked at 2-2 when Augustenstein and the Gators' Andy Zhang were extended to extra holes. On No. 10, their 20th hole of the session, Zhang lagged his putt up close as Augustenstein surveyed a 10-footer. Augustenstein struck his putt solidly and it found the bottom of the cup to clinch the match and set off a Vanderbilt celebration.
Just before Augustenstein putted, Vanderbilt assistant coach Dusty Smith told him, "Just like you do it every day."
"When he said that, I said, 'Just like at Owensboro (Ky.) Country Club back home," Augustenstein said with a laugh. "That's a thought I always like to bring in when I have a putt I need to make to take the importance out of it. ... Today was emotionally draining for us. We had two matches go down to the wire to advance. It was crazy."
Commodores head coach Scott Limbaugh said he was happy Augustenstein had that chance.
"That was special," Limbaugh said. "John makes a lot of putts for us. We end our practices with putting drills and John is the last one standing lots of times. He's one of the guys I would have wanted with that opportunity. ... My heart is still beating fast. It's unreal. The ball just ended up bouncing our way and we feel very fortunate."
The second-seeded Aggies defeated No. 7 seeded Missouri 5-0 using what Coach J.T. Higgins called "the best golf we played all year." Brandon Smith, Dan Erickson, Andrew Paysee, Cameron Champ and Chandler Phillips each won for Texas A&M.
That set up the semifinal matchup with No. 6 Alabama. Their match also was tied 2-2 with the decider coming down to Champ's pairing with the Tide's Steven Setterstrom. Knotted after 17 holes, Champ converted a 10-foot putt for par to halve the hole and hold on for the 1-up victory.
Higgins said he is excited that the league has introduced match play into the equation.
"It's a great format no matter where, but especially for the SEC Championship, the best golf conference," Higgins said. "It also prepares us for nationals. Our guys have never felt that kind of pressure. You can't replicate that, you can't get ready for that in practice. ... That's the first time my stomach has been in knots since 2009. You're tense and nervous and feeling for the guys who are working and fighting so hard. But it's a great feeling to have. It's nice to be in the hunt again."