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After finishing a disappointing 24th at last month's Big 10 Championships, Illinois junior Scott Langley needed to recharge his batteries a bit. So what did he do? He played golf.
Langley went home to St. Louis and competed in a few tournaments, one of them a U.S. Open local qualifier, which he won with a three-under-par 68. That was enough to get him back on track. With an opening 70 followed by a pair of 68s, Langley finished at 10 under par for the stroke-play portion of the tournament and hung on to win the NCAA individual championship.
The Honors Course has hosted the NCAAs twice. The first time, in 1996, Tiger Woods won the individual title. Now Langley has something in common with the man he lists as his favorite athlete. "It means a lot to be medalist," Langley said.
Langley had his share of anxious moments before he claimed that victory. He had to finish his second round early Thursday because of a rain delay. Langley had only one hole to play, the par-4 18th, and he bogeyed it.
Undaunted by that ominous start, Langley, who began his third round on the back nine, made a birdie at 14, an eagle on the par-5 17th and another birdie at the 1st that got him to 10 under and gave him the outright lead for the first time in the tournament.
Then he had to wait as Oklahoma State's Peter Uihlein, Augusta State's Henrik Norlander and 36-hole leader Alex Ching of the University of San Diego made runs at him.
No one could match Langley's score, but a few golfers remained on the course until it was dark, so he would have to wait until the following morning for the trophy presentation. Langley didn't mind, because he thought he'd be back at the course the next morning anyway. "I liked the position I was in, but there were a lot of good players that could have caught me," he said. "I expected someone to, and that we'd be in a playoff."
After a season in which he had seven top 10 finishes in 13 events, he was happy to see it end. "It has been a year of ups and downs for me. I have come close to winning a lot this year, but to finally pull it off by stringing three rounds together on a stage like this really blows me away. This is very special to me."