MANHATTAN, Kan. - After shooting the lowest score of the day, University of Houston golfer Brett Callas captured first place Saturday at the NCAA Central Regional and qualified for the 2003 NCAA Championships next weekend.
Callas, who was tied for sixth entering Saturday's final 18 holes, shot a 5-under-par 67 on the 7,288-yard, par-72 course at Colbert Hills Country Club in Manhattan, Kan. The Huffman, Texas, native finished the 54-hole event at 9-under-par 207, one stroke better than Illinois' Patrick Nagle.
He also capped a remarkable run at the tournament. After finishing the first round in a tie for 30th place, Callas climbed to sixth place following the second round and made the move atop the leaderboard during the final round.
With his solid outing, Callas, who was one of six individual players invited to the Regional, will now compete at the 2003 NCAA Championships on May 27-30 at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.
It was the second career tournament win for Callas, who placed first at the 2001 Maxwell tournament.
"I didn't play too well at the beginning of the season, but the last three or four tournaments I've been playing real well," Callas said. "The last two holes, I missed a 10-footer and a 6-footer. I feel like I really could have taken it low.
"I wish my team could have been here. I came out here and all I had to do was play for myself and see where it took me," Callas said. "It's different because I'm usually playing for the team, not myself. When I'm out there, I really try to play one shot at a time. Whether it's for myself or for the team, it should be the same."
Callas birdied two of his first four holes during the final round to put himself on solid footing. Even after stumbling with a bogey on the par-4 15th hole, he rallied to record a birdie two holes later and finished his first nine holes at 1-under-par 35.
He began his final nine holes in spectacular fashion, drilling an eagle on the par-5 first hole and followed that with a birdie on the second hole. After four straight pars, he tallied another birdie on the eighth hole to finish with a 32 on his back nine.
Callas became the first Cougar golfer since Dean Larsson in 1994 to win first place at an NCAA Regional. Larsson finished first at the NCAA Central Regional in Oklahoma City, Okla.
He also set a new UH record for the lowest round in the third round of an NCAA Regional. Zoran Zorkic (1989 Central Regional) and Wade Ormsby (2000 Central Regional) had held the previous record of 68 in their respective events.
Judd Easterling of Wichita State and Hunter Mahan of Oklahoma State each tied for third at 7-under-par 209.
Oklahoma State captured team honors at 8-under-par 856 to finish five strokes ahead of Illinois. As a Top 10 team at the Central Regional, North Carolina State, North Carolina, Texas, Kentucky, SMU, Minnesota, Arkansas and Wichita State also advanced to next week's NCAA Championships.
Lamar's Chris Stroud also qualified for the NCAA Championships as the second-place finisher not on a team that finished among the Top 10 team leaders .