Davis Bunn was steamed.
Bunn, a sophomore on Chattanooga’s golf team, had just double-bogeyed the 15th hole in the final round of the NCAA Bowling Green Regional at the Club at Olde Stone, and all he could think of was his teammates—who were locked in a battle with Texas A&M for the championship—and how he didn’t want to let them down.
Fortunately for Bunn and the Mocs, he had been preparing for situations like this. Drawing on wisdom passed on by Scott Masters, his swing instructor back home in Knoxville, Bunn willed away his anger and began to focus.
“After the double, I just wanted to stay cool and collected,” Bunn said. “I didn’t want to make another mistake coming in. When you make a double, your first instinct is to try and get it back, go after some pins. In reality, you’ve just got to stick with your game plan and keep going. Keep your cool.”
Bunn’s next hole was a par-3 that played about 168 yards, downhill. He chose an 8-iron, hoping the ball would land short and roll to the hole. His swing was pure.
“I felt the contact of the ball and I knew it was really solid,” Bunn said. “I knew it was going to go somewhere pretty good.”
He was right. The ball landed on the green and caught a ridge that funneled it toward the hole. As Bunn, his parents, and UTC assistant coach David McKenna watched, the ball rolled straight and true, like a putt, and fell into the hole. It was Bunn’s first career hole-in-one, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Bunn was still pumped up when he got to the 17th tee, and perhaps a bit distracted, so it was understandable he bogeyed the hole. Undaunted, he kept his head in the game and birdied No. 18, a par 5, with an 8-foot putt. When Bunn walked off the green, McKenna told him, “You don’t know how big that putt was.”
Bunn finished with a 74, as did teammate and fellow sophomore Chris Robb, who started out bogey/quadruple bogey on his first two holes and was 6-over-par through six holes. He too brought things back around with a birdie barrage.
Bunn and Robb didn’t get the headlines the way teammates Stephan Jaeger, who won the individual championship, or Steven Fox, who set the course record with a second-round 64, did. But their efforts were no less important to the Mocs’ first NCAA regional victory.
“As great as everybody else played,” said UTC coach Mark Guhne, “Davis and Chris got that day done for us.”
The victory proved one thing about team golf—it matters little if a player like Jaeger is shooting well under par if his teammates at the four and five positions are shooting well over. That the Mocs’ dropped score in the final round was a 74 underscores how far the program has come under Guhne’s leadership.
“The last few years, we’ve had some great players come through here,” Guhne said. “Guys like Derek Rende and Bryce Ledford and Jonathan Hodge. But we’ve never really been strong through the five guy. If you look at schools around the country, it’s tough to get that deep.
“It’s nice now when somebody’s not playing well we have somebody to step in and play well, and Davis and Chris did that.”
Bunn and Robb will no doubt be instrumental again when the Mocs compete in the NCAA finals May 29-June 3 at famed Riviera Country Club near Los Angeles. Lucky for Guhne that both players are such cool customers.
Consider what Robb did after making a 9 on the par-5 second at Club at Olde Stone. He’d slapped it around pretty thoroughly on the hole, but maintained a zen-like calm.
“I wasn’t getting angry,” Robb said. “I was just trying to stay relaxed, which is difficult. After (the quad) I just really got motivated. I told myself I’m not going to finish the tournament like this. I can’t let the guys down by making a huge number and then giving up.”
Robb saved par at No. 3, but followed that with a bogey. Then he got going. He birdied holes 5 and 6, missed short birdie putts at 7 and 8, and then made four more birdies on the back to come home with a 2-under-par 34.
“I can’t say enough about what Chris did,” Guhne said. “It kind of gets overlooked because of how the other guys played. But for him to get a 9 on his second hole and then fight back like he did? I was very proud of him.”
Bunn was no stranger to the dark side of the Club at Olde Stone, having made a 10 at the par-4 9th hole and a triple-bogey 7 on the 12th hole in the second round. Bunn wound up with an 83, but he shook it off the following day to become a key cog in Chattanooga winning the tournament.
“Even if you make a big number, you have to keep playing,” Bunn said. “For Chris to be 6 over through four holes and then come back and shoot a 74, that was unbelievable. You never really know what’s going to happen throughout a round of golf. But you have to put your head down and keep playing.”