The Nevada men's golf team was one solid hole away from reaching the NCAA Championships for the fourth time in school history, but the 18th at University of Georgia Golf Course ended up being fatal Wednesday afternoon in Athens, Ga.
The Wolf Pack, which was one over on the first 17 holes, combined to shoot five over on the 18th to finish seventh in the 13-team field. With the top five teams advancing to nationals, Nevada fell just short of an NCAA Championships berth.
Nevada then was dealt with more heartbreak as Bishop Manogue graduate Stephen Osborne, a junior for the Wolf Pack, lost an individual playoff for a spot in nationals.
Osborne fired an even-par 71 on Wednesday to finish the three-round event at 3 under, which tied for fourth in the field. Georgia's Davis Thompson won the event at 8 under, followed by Vanderbilt's Will Gordon at 6 under and Georgia's Spencer Ralston at 4 under. Each of those players qualified for nationals with their team. Osborne tied with Western Kentucky's Billy Tom Sargent for the top individual who did not qualify with their team, forcing a playoff for a spot in nationals.
Sargent birdied the 17th and 18th holes to force the playoff, sinking a 15-foot putt on the 18th. After both players pared the first playoff hole (the 10th) and bogeyed the second playoff hole (the 18th), Sargent won on the third playoff hole (the 10th) with a 20-foot par putt.
Nevada nearly made it to nationals as a team for the first time since 2006.
The Wolf Pack carded a 6-over 290 to finish the tournament at 23 over. That was five strokes behind Liberty (+18) for fifth. Georgia (-8), Duke (-1), Vanderbilt (+1) and SMU (+16) also advanced to nationals. The Wolf Pack carded five birdies on holes 16 and 17 to put itself in good position heading into the 18th. But all four scoring Wolf Pack golfers recorded a bogey or worse on the 18th hole, with Joey Vrzich carding a double bogey and Obsorne, Sam Harned and Sam Meeks each recording bogeys.
Osborne (E) had the best round of the day for Nevada. Vrzich (+1), Harned (+2) and Meek (+3) also scored for the Wolf Pack. Tony Gil (+5) also competed, although his score was not counted as only the top four scores count toward the team total.
Although it fell short of the NCAA Championships as a team, Nevada wrapped up one of the best seasons in program history. The Wolf Pack won three regular-season events and qualified for NCAA Regionals for the 13th time in school history.
One local did move on to nationals from the Athens Regional as Osborne's younger brother, Ollie, a freshman at SMU, advanced as the Mustangs qualified as a team. Ollie shot 2 under Wednesday to finish tied for 25th in the event at 5 over.
One Mountain West school made it to nationals: UNLV out of the Myrtle Beach Regional. Colorado State finished tied for in the Pullman Regional, losing in playoff; San Jose State finished ninth in the Austin Regional; and New Mexico 12th in the Louisville Regional.