ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. --- LSU claimed the top spot by nine shots after 54 holes of stroke play and Florida's Andy Zhang defeated Ole Miss' Cecil Wegener in a 3-hole playoff to highlight Friday's action in the 2018 Southeastern Conference Men's Golf Championship at Sea Island Golf Club.
LSU got a 4-under 66 for the third consecutive round (from three different players, no less) to spark a 3-under 277 Friday. The Tigers counted Philip Barbaree's 66 along with a 69 from Jacob Bergeron and 71s from Luis Gagne and Trey Winstead.
LSU finished nine shots clear of the 843s posted by Florida and Vanderbilt. Alabama (848), Auburn (848), Arkansas (848), Ole Miss (851) and Texas A&M (851) completed the eight squads advancing to Saturday's match play competition.
"The guys played really well," LSU coach Chuck Winstead said. "The 66s all three rounds, on a golf course as tough as this and with the wind blowing like it is, will cover up the bogeys that are inevitable. You just try to survive to get to match play. Do you match up? Can you get three wins? We've been on the right side of it and the wrong side of it. It's tough from here."
The pairings will be No. 1 LSU and No. 8 Texas A&M, No. 2 Florida and No. 7 Ole Miss, No. 3 Vanderbilt and No. 6 Alabama, and No. 4 Auburn and No. 5 Arkansas. The quarterfinals and semifinals will take place on Saturday, followed by the final on Sunday.
The Florida-Ole Miss match once again will pair Zhang against Wegener. After each man finished at 5-under 205 on Friday, they needed three extra holes to decide the medalist title. After each made par on No. 18 twice, Zhang parred No. 17 after Wegener's bogey to claim the first collegiate title of his career.
"Whenever you're in a situation like that, it's never nerve-racking," Zhang said. "My heart was beating really fast out there. I'm just glad I made some good pars. It's an amazing feeling. Words can't describe that joy at that moment."
Said Wegener, "My game felt great all week. It's definitely a lot of nerves, but I was still really confident. It didn't go my way today, but I've got a lot more chances." Also on Friday, Vanderbilt's Theo Humphrey was chosen as the SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year.
Live scoring for the SEC Championship can be found at SECSports.com and Golfstat.com.