ATHENS, Ga. (WBKO) --- Billy Tom Sargent needed one of the most clutch finishes of his life Wednesday.
The WKU Hilltopper Golf senior found that next gear, and he punched his ticket to the 2019 NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championships in the process.
Sargent sank a 30-foot par putt on the third playoff hole against Nevada’s Stephen Osborne to claim the single individual berth to the NCAA Championships out of the Athens (Ga.) Regional.
The Georgetown, Ky., native trailed by two strokes with two holes to play in his round, but finished with birdie putts of 7 and 15 feet to force the playoff.
“Making it to regionals was an honor, and I knew it could’ve been my last tournament if I didn’t play well,” Sargent said. “I just wanted to go out there and give it all I had. I worked pretty hard going into it and felt like my game was where it needed to be. I just wanted to play solid golf. I knew if I stayed patient, made a bunch of pars and mixed some birdies in I’d have a chance.”
Sargent will compete at the NCAA Championships on May 24-29 at Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Ark. He’s the first Hilltopper to ever advance through an NCAA Regional.
To do so, he posted the lowest 54-hole NCAA Regional score in program history with a 210 (71-69-70), beating Brent Long’s previous record of 215 in 2006.
He also set a new 36-hole NCAA Regional program record and owns the top-three single-round NCAA scores.
It became clear as the day went on that Sargent would have to chase down Nevada’s Osborne to make a run at the par-71, 7,253-yard University of Georgia Golf Course.
Osborne left the door open with a bogey on the 18th, but Sargent fell two shots back again after a bogey on the par-3 16th.
He was far from done.
Sargent sank a 7-foot putt for an up-and-down birdie on the par-5 17th, then dropped in a 15-footer for birdie on 18 with his tournament on the line. That was just the eighth birdie of the day on No. 18 and the 15th of the entire tournament, set up by Sargent’s remarkable 191-yard approach shot set him up to tie Osborne.
“Making that putt and knowing it forced a playoff was an incredible feeling,” Sargent said. “I didn’t really make a lot of birdies this tournament, but birdieing the last two to force a playoff was a pretty good feeling.”
Both players parred No. 10 on their first playoff hole, and then they each scrambled for bogey on No. 18.
After returning to the par-4 10th for the third playoff hole, Sargent hit his second shot over the green and then left his chip about 30 feet away.
He had one more big putt in him, rolling in the long par save to secure his bid.
Sargent finished ahead of 13 of the 16 top-100 golfers in the Athens Regional, including seven in the top 50.
“Billy Tom played an amazing event,” WKU head coach Chan Metts said. “Billy Tom is one of those rare players that likes to know where he stands in regards to the leaderboard. That isn’t always the case, but knowing that allowed us to attack the last few holes with a very clear plan as we knew what we needed to force a playoff. The birdie on 17 and 18 to force that playoff was special stuff.
“He hit an incredible 6-iron into 18 and buried that putt, and he did that all knowing birdie was what he needed. I am so proud of what he accomplished this week. It is a great day for Billy Tom, our golf program and WKU. We aren’t done yet – we have more golf to play.”
At the Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Regional, Sargent’s teammate and fellow senior Stuart Easton tied for 35th with a three-round total of 220 (71-73-76).
Easton had WKU’s third senior, Blake Smith, by his side on the course throughout the week.
“Today wasn’t my best,” Easton said. “I didn’t build any momentum or take advantage of the chances I gave myself. Very disappointing to finish the tournament like that because I was playing well all week and my scores don’t reflect how well I played. Nevertheless, it was a fun week out there with Blake and an honor to represent WKU on such a big stage.”
Easton’s 220 total is the fourth-lowest NCAA Regional 54-hole score in WKU history, and his first-round 71 is now tied for the third-lowest single round by a Hilltopper in NCAA play.
The All-Conference USA First Team selection is just the third different Hilltopper to compete in NCAA Regional play as an individual.
“Stuart played great in Myrtle Beach,” Metts said. “In these situations, the first goal is to put yourself in position to have a chance going into the last day. He did that through the first two rounds. This was a great experience for him and will hopefully be a springboard for him as he prepares for the next step of playing professionally. His impact on WKU and this golf program is tremendous, and I am so proud I was able to work with him this season.”