Joy and Relief for AU's Newest Champion

Auburn, Ala.--The monkey lifted off of Patton Kizzire's back wasn't the size of King Kong, but it was more than large enough for the talented to junior to feel it when he competed for the Auburn golf team.

"That is the truth," the new SEC men's golf champion says about the pressure reference. "I have been expecting a lot out of myself and I know others have, too. It is a relief."

Kizzire became the fourth men's golfer in Auburn University history to win the SEC individual golf title as he took a four-stroke victory by shooting rounds of 72, 69 and 70 at the challenging Seaside Course at Sea Island Golf Club.

"It kind of freed me up a little bit," Kizzire says of his first collegiate victory. "I was putting a little pressure on myself and kind of forcing things, but it just happened this week and I think it is free-wheeling from here."

The windy conditions at the par 70 Seaside Course prevented any teams from posting low scores at the three-day conference tournament that ended on Sunday. Tennessee won the team title at 29-over-par. Kizzire did a better job than anyone dealing with the course and the elements.

"It was a pretty challenging course," the Auburn junior says. "I have played the course before and it has always been tough, although we have been playing in some pretty tough conditions lately so it really didn't seem as hard to me as it might have to some of the other guys."

Kizzire notes that Auburn's previous tournament, the Purdue Invitational, was played in harshly cold and extremely windy conditions and that probably helped him and the team have a good showing at the SEC Championship.

"Our last tournament at Purdue was brutal," he says. "Then we spent the last Sunday (before the SEC event) playing Willow Point in Alex City, which is right on the lake (Martin) and it was so windy it was blowing golf balls sideways. After that the SEC Tournament wasn't anything I wasn't prepared for."

Kizzire, who arrived at Auburn from Tuscaloosa with a very impressive record in junior golf, was considered a prized recruit for Coach Mike Griffin, who notes that he was impressed with Kizzire's all-around effort both physically and mentally over three days of competition at Sea Island.

The Auburn junior notes that earning the SEC title is something he can be proud of as he joins Jimmy Green (1991), Bryant MacKellar (1997) and Roland Thatcher (2000) as Auburn's conference champs.

"Winning the SEC is an awesome feeling," he says. "I hadn't won a college tournament yet and it has been a long time coming. Just knowing the guys who are in the SEC, knowing what kind of competition it is, it feels really good that the hard work has paid off. I beat a lot of very good competitors."

Kizzire says he wasn't surprised he came home with the championship trophy because he had been playing well prior to teeing off at Sea Island. "Yes, I did feel good about it," he says. "I am not real proud of it, but if you ask somebody they will say I am pretty confident. I really felt more and more confident coming into this tournament. I like the bigger tournaments. I felt good going in and I really enjoy the stage. It all panned out pretty good."

Next on the agenda for Kizzire and the Tigers is competition at one of the three NCAA regional qualifiers that will determine the field for the national championship tournament, which will be held May 30-June 2 at the Golden Horseshoe course in Williamsburg, Va.

Kizzire and the Tigers moved up two spots at the 2007 SEC Tournament after taking fifth last year, which was AU's lowest finish since a sixth in 1999.

Auburn finished third at the SEC tournament, five strokes behind Tennessee. The Tigers made a run on day three with nine birdies on the front nine holes and closed the gap to one stroke before the Vols pulled away for the victory.

Kizzire says as a team the Tigers can play better than they did at the SEC Tournament. On May 7th the team will learn which regional tournament it will play at in an attempt to qualify for the nationals. The East Regional is not far away in Alpharetta, Ga., the Central Regional is scheduled for Grove, Ill, and the West Regional will be held in Tempe, Ariz.

"We have a lot of talent and lot of good guys on the team," Kizzire says. "I know some of the guys are frustrated with their play at SECs. We all know how good they are. A couple of guys didn't play their best. I know pretty soon we are going to play our best and we will reach our full potential at the right time. Coach always emphasizes peaking at the right time."

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