Tigers Master The Field At New Venue

Auburn, Ala.--Lee Williams admits he can't explain it, but he certainly likes it.

After playing strong golf in rounds one and three, sandwiched around a disappointing middle round, the Tigers ran away from the field to win the 12-team Billy Hitchcock Invitational at the Auburn University Club golf course.

With Williams shooting a four-under-par 68 to lead the third round charge, Auburn shot a three-day team total of 861, 24 shots better than runnerup Memphis, which was only three shots behind Auburn going into Sunday's final round.

Williams says he can't explain the big difference in his team's play from Saturday to Sunday. "I have no clue," he says. "It's just golf and we all played bad at the same time. None of us knew how the others were playing so it wasn't like we were feeding off of each other playing badly."

Williams (left) is congratulated by Griffin following a final round 68.

Williams finished one shot off the pace set by Ian Rochester of Memphis, who finished with a 74 to score 211. Williams wasn't the only Tiger who finished under par on Sunday.

Senior Tyler McKeever shot a 71 to post a 216, putting him in a tie for third. Senior Matthew Myers shot a 69 and tied for sixth. Junior Stuart Moore shot a 71 and tied for 18th at 223.

Auburn didn't have to count the 73 turned in by senior Will Claxton, who tied for 10th at 220.

"I played really good on the back nine and as a team I think we played really well here, probably the best we have ever played as a team," Williams says. "To have tossed out a 73 is awesome. That shows we played really, really well today."

Williams and the Tigers will look to keep their hot streak alive as they head for Georgia to play the SEC Championships at Sea Island.

"This course is a lot like the one we play at SECs in that you have to drive it really straight," Williams says of the Auburn University Club course. "We have been playing good for the last three tournaments and that is a real good feeling going into the SECs."

The Hitchcock tournament had previously been played at Saugahatchee Country, but was moved to the 7,275-yard Auburn University Club this spring to provide a more challenging test of golf.

"It is a lot tougher course than Saugahatchee," Williams says. "It is a lot longer, a lot tighter," he says.

Auburn coach Mike Griffin says he was pleased with how well the event went at its new home.

"It is strange to play the Billy Hitchcock tournament here, but we got some compliments on the golf course," the coach says. "It obviously a different type of course. It is bigger and obviously a lot more demanding as far as shot-making abilities needed to be successful, although Saugahatchee had a way of protecting itself. The numbers there never really went mega-low out there. Obviously, here you have to hit got to a lot of different variety of shots. If you hit a ball sideways here and veer off the beaten path you are asking for trouble."

Auburn has now won the 18-year-old Hitchcock tournament two straight years and 10 overall, including nine of the last 11 years.

That didn't necessarily look like it was going to happen after day two, Griffin notes. "The first day we were five under par for the day, which is really good," the coach says. "We turned at two over par, but played seven under on the back. We were really pleased with that and I would have been pleased with anything around even par because the course was playing so difficulty.

"The second day we actually cut three strokes off our turn score when we turned at one under and I was feeling very good about the way we were playing. Then we played the backside 12 over. Asking the guys, everybody sort of had this big question mark on the center of their faces. We made some bad judgements, made a few bad shots at inopportune moments and we missed some putts. The next thing we know we are 12 over on the back so an 11-over 299 kind of brings other teams back into the tournament.

Tyler McKeever had a strong tournament as he finished in third place.

"The guys did some soul searching and thought about it a little bit and they decided to come out and play like men today," Griffin adds. "The 69 from Matthew was really big. It was a real good round of golf. Two 71s from Stuart Moore and Tyler McKeever were very good and our throw-out number of 73 from Will Claxton is pretty solid. On Saturday, we didn't even have a 73."

Auburn's final day nine-under-par total of 279 was 20 strokes better than the Saturday round and put the Tigers at 861 with a 283 on Friday. Memphis shot a 300 on Sunday to finish at 885.

Other scores included UNC-Charlotte (890), Ole Miss (892), UAB (893), Jacksonville State (901), South Alabama (901), Southeastern Louisiana (909) and Georgia State (909), Illinois (913), College of Charleston (916) and Mississippi State (922).

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