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Reeves' ace almost not enough as Tech advances

MILTON -- Seth Reeves couldn't have picked a much better time and place for his first hole-in-one.

After all, it came in the NCAA championship at the Capital City Club's Crabapple Course.

But the ace on No. 4 and the eagle 3 that followed on No. 5 almost went for naught Friday in the first round of match play.

Reeves dropped his match to UNLV's Carl Jonson 4 and 3 despite his stunning start and the loss could have cost Georgia Tech a spot in today's NCAA semifinals.

"I was praying so hard. I wanted another chance," the Peachtree Ridge graduate said.

Yellow Jackets teammate Ollie Schniederjans made sure Reeves got it.

Forced to an extra hole, Schniederjans stuck his approach shot and made a birdie putt, giving host Georgia Tech a 3-2 victory.

No. 2 seed Georgia Tech will play Alabama today, the 2012 NCAA runner-up, for the right to advance to Sunday's title match. The Crimson Tide defeated New Mexico 4-1

The other semifinal features top-seeded California against No. 5 Illinois, which defeated defending champion Texas 3-2. The Bears got a scare before defeating Pac-12 rival Arizona State 3-2.

That match went to the final hole, with Brandon Hagy hitting a nearly perfect approach to set up the birdie. The Tech match followed a similar script, but on an extra hole.

Schniederjans placed his second shot from about 110 yards out a couple feet of the cup before sinking the birdie putt to beat Kevin Penner, who had made a 50-footer on No. 17 to tie.

"I knew everything was on the line, but I called on my experience and felt really calm," the sophomore said. "It was a great match. He played very well."

Nobody, though, could rival the way Reeves started his round.

"It really got everyone fired up," he said.

Reeves' 6-iron shot on the 216-yard par-3 third hole hit about 10 feet in front of the cup and rolled in.

"It was a perfect shot," Reeves said. "It felt so good."

Then he had his third eagle in two days, booming a long drive on par-5 fifth hole. Reeves eagled No. 5 in Thursday's final round of stroke play. But Jonson took the lead on No. 9 and closed Reeves out on No. 15.

"I wasn't playing that bad, but he was really good," said Reeves, who was glad to join the celebrating when Schniederjans kept Tech's title hopes alive.

Cal, which finished stroke play on Thursday six shots better than Georgia Tech, is the overwhelming favorite after losing only two of 13 tournaments this season.

Arizona State, though, almost pulled off a quarterfinal upset.

With the match on the line, Hagy hit his 137-yard approach to within three feet of the cup to defeat standout ASU freshman Jon Rahm, who had shot a 61 on the first day of stroke play, and give the Bears the hard-earned victory.

Hagy's clutch shot came after he had failed to close things out on No. 17 when his par putt lipped out. "I just concentrated on the target and made a good swing," the junior said.

Asked if he was nervous, Hagy didn't hesitate. "Absolutely," he said.

Cal coach Steve Deismond said he had been antsy throughout the match.

"It was an uneasy feeling," said Deismond, in his 34th season as Bears coach. "How many times [this year] have we been in a situation like this? Almost zero."

The Bears, NCAA champs in 2004, lost 3-2 to Alabama in the semifinals in 2012 and anything less than a title will mark this season as a disappointment.

ASU coach Tim Mickelson still considers the Bears in an elite class.

"I don't see how it gets any better," he said. "I believe it's the best [college] team we've ever put on golf course. If they don't win it's a shame. But it's match play and you never know."

The Bears remain confident.

"A bull's eye on your back means your ahead," said Cal senior Max Homa, who won the NCAA individual title on Thursday. "Pressure is a privilege. There can never be too much pressure."