SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Ricky Castillo won a marathon match to bring Florida back from what appeared to be certain defeat.
Georgia Tech’s Ross Steelman hit clutch shots down the stretch a day after limping to the finish in the individual championship.
There’s a reason the two seniors were in the anchor matches.
Castillo rallied from 2 down with three holes left and birdied the third extra hole to beat Brett Roberts, giving Florida a 3-2 victory over Florida State in the NCAA semifinals Tuesday at Grayhawk.
“An hour ago we were just dead. It was over,” Florida coach J.C. Deacon said. “I honestly saw no way of winning it, but if our program’s going to be in anyone’s hands I want to be in this guy’s (Castillo).”
Same with Steelman.
A day after losing his grip on the individual championship with three closing bogeys, the senior two-putted for par to beat Peter Fountain 1 up, sealing Georgia Tech a 3-2 victory over top-seeded North Carolina.
“I know he’s disappointed what happened before, but I wouldn’t trust anyone more to win a match,” Georgia Tech coach Bruce Heppler said.
The Yellow Jackets will play for their first national title in Wednesday’s title match against the Gators, vying for their first since 2001.
Castillo rallied from 2 down with three holes to go with birdies on 16 and 17. Neither player could get up and down for par on No. 18, sending the match to extra holes.
After trading three pars, Roberts missed a birdie putt on the par-4 10th hole. Putting on the same line, Castillo rolled his in, pumping his fist as the Gators rushed onto the green in celebration.
“They’re resilient and mentally tough,” North Carolina coach Andrew DiBitetto said. “We can take on any challenges and just came up short, a putt short.”
It didn’t look good for the Gators for a while.
Florida State won the first two matches, starting with freshman Jack Bigham’s 6-and-5 win over Yuxin Lin. Frederik Kjettrup followed with a 3-and-1 decision over Matthew Kress.
Florida tied it when NCAA individual champion Fred Biondi birdied the par-4 17th to beat Cole Anderson 1 up, then John DuBois beat Luke Clanton 1 up with a par on No. 18.
Castillo, a senior with three career wins, caught Roberts down the stretch with two birdies and made the final one to cap a day that started with an morning 3-2 win over Virginia in the quarterfinals.
“Neither of us had our best stuff, but I think both of us grinded it out really, really well today,” Castillo said. “Just fought hard and I ended up getting the win.”
The final match went down to the wire as well.
Georgia Tech needed extra holes to secure its quarterfinal match against Pepperdine in the morning, moving on when Hiroshi Tai birdied the 19th hole against Roberto Nieves.
North Carolina got the early lead in the semifinals when Dylan Menante won six straight holes starting at No. 6 to beat Christo Lamprecht 6 and 5.
Georgia Tech’s Bartley Forrester beat Ryan Burnett 4 and 2. Connor Howe followed with a 4-and-2 win over Austin Greaser.
David Ford then closed out Tai 1 up with a par on 18 to pull North Carolina into a tie at 2-all.
That left it up to Steelman.
The senior had three-shot lead through 15 holes Monday in the individual finale, only to end up a shot behind Biondi.
He finished it off this time.
Leading 1 up, Steelman dropped in a birdie on 17, but Fountain matched him with a birdie putt that rolled around the lip before dropping. Fountain had to lay up after hitting into a fairway bunker on 18 and Steelman hit it to the middle of the green.
Fountain conceded the winning putt after Steelman rolled it up to about a foot.
“Just knowing that my coach and teammates have confidence in me to go close it out, if it comes down to it, it’s awesome,” Steelman said. “Whenever a little bit of nerves creep in, it’s a nice reassuring factor to think about: hey, my guys wanted me in the spot, so just go do it.”
Castillo and Steelman get to do it one more time on Wednesday — they face each other in the anchor match.
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