Stephan Jaeger owned a substantial individual lead in the NCAA South Central Regional golf tournament as he eyed a birdie putt while playing in the last group on the last hole.
He knew his team was well within the top five, assured of heading to the national championship tournament.
He did not know that he was lining up the most historic putt in the history of University of Tennessee at Chattanooga golf.
The record-setting senior made it.
The Mocs won UTC's first NCAA regional title in any sport in its Division I era.
"We've had a good program for the last few years, and we've been trying to show that we can be one of the best in the country," coach Mark Guhne said. "This is another one of those steps that solidifies the fact that we are good and we can play with anybody in the country."
UTC shot a 4-under-par 284 Saturday to finish at 5-under 859 for the three-day tournament at the Club at Olde Stone in Bowling Green, Ky.
The Mocs edged Texas A&M by a stroke with Jaeger's final putt. Top-seeded UCLA finished third at 863, Virginia Tech was fourth at 874 and Memphis finished fifth at 876.
Those teams play for the NCAA national title May 29-June 3 at famed Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles. Guhne and his team will leave Saturday.
"I don't know anything about L.A. except that big Hollywood sign," Guhne joked. "I'm a dumb redneck boy from Tennessee, and this whole thing is could be a movie: 'Beverly Hillbillies do Good.'"
Jaeger played the best golf of anybody in the field, including Patrick Cantlay of UCLA, who is the No. 1 ranked amateur in the world. Cantlay tied for 19th behind two Mocs.
Jaeger, who prepped at Baylor School, shot a final round of 6-under 66. He wound up at 13-under 203, which topped runner-up Pedro Figueiredo of UCLA by four shots.
UTC junior Steven Fox tied for third at 211 with Jonathan Fly of Memphis and Scott Vincent of Virginia Tech.
"My game is very solid and consistent, and this week I was just on," said Jaeger, the medalist also at the Southern Conference tournament. "On that last putt, I had about five feet for birdie. I kind of knew I was going to win, but I didn't know about the team.
"I made it and the guys started yelling and going crazy, and [former Moc] Ben Rickett said what a huge putt that was for the team."
UTC began the final round in third place and four shots behind UCLA. Guhne said his players made some shaky swings early Saturday. Jaeger was staring at a bogey on his opening hole after driving his ball into rough. But he chipped in for birdie, then went on to shoot 34 on the front and 32 on the back nine.
Fox followed his course-record setting 64 on Friday with a 1-under 71 that included four birdies and three bogeys.
"I felt confident the last two days, especially with my putter, and I was reading putts and sweeping it well," Fox said. "This was my second-best tournament, and that's only because I won at Furman."
Sophomore Davis Bunn had UTC's drop score Friday but responded with a 2-over 74 in the final round. He aced the par-3 16th from 176 yards with an 8-iron.
"That was my first hole-in-one of my life," Bunn said. "It landed about 12 feet short and rolled in."
Freshman Liam Johnston finished with a 1-over 73, and sophomore Chris Robb shot 74, meaning that all of the Mocs shot 2 over or better in the final round of their biggest tournament of the year.
"It's special, it's amazing, because you go there praying, 'Let me get through,' and you don't think much about winning," Guhne said. "Jaeger was unbelievable for the week. Fox set the course record. Bunn had a hole-in-one.
"It's just amazing."
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...