Southern Illinois University men's golfer Peyton Wilhoit came up shy of becoming the first player in school history to qualify for the NCAA National Championship. On Wednesday, Wilhoit (+4) fired a 4-over par 76 in the third round at the NCAA Regional in Norman, Oklahoma to place 37th out of 75 competitors.
The reigning Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year finished 10 strokes behind Pepperdine's Joshua McCarthy (-6), who punched the only individual ticket to the championships. The top five teams to advance were Oklahoma, BYU, North Florida, Auburn and Arkansas.
After rolling home seven birdies in the first two rounds on Monday and Tuesday, Wilhoit (74-70-76 = 220) settled for just one birdie Wednesday, along with 12 pars and five bogeys.
"He got off to a good start with a birdie early and was even par on the front nine," said SIU coach Justin Fetcho. "We knew even par wasn't going to get him to nationals, so with only nine holes left to play he had to get an aggressive mindset, flip the switch and either be low individual or go home. He started to press a little bit and made a couple of bogeys in a row."
Wilhoit's list of accomplishments this season at SIU was unprecedented, and he added to his resume by becoming the first player in school history to shoot under-par during an NCAA post-season round when he carded a 2-under par 70 on Tuesday. The junior from Searcy, Arkansas entered the NCAA Regionals as the nation's No. 166-ranked player yet he placed ahead of seven golfers ranked in the Top 75.
"He's exactly what you're looking for as a coach — a great teammate, a hard worker on the course and a great student," Fetcho said. "When you're doing everything right, good things happen. He kept building confidence the entire year. I'm trying not to look ahead too much, but I think we'll see even better golf from him next year, top 100 golf next year. He has that kind of potential."
Wilhoit's season highlights include winning tournaments hosted by Kennesaw State and William & Mary, taking fifth place at LSU, and third place at both South Florida and Arkansas State. He had a run of seven-straight top-15 tournament finishes and won the MVC Player of the Week award eight times. He was also an MVC Scholar-Athlete team honoree.
"I've improved year to year thanks to hard work with Coach (Fetcho) and my swing coach," Wilhoit said. "I have to give thanks to a lot of people who have helped me do things I never dreamed of. I remember going into Kennesaw knowing I can win a golf tournament, and if I play well, no one can beat me. That was the biggest turning point of the year."