Surprise NCAA champion overcomes late stumble, claims title, Masters bid

Hiroshi Tai of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets celebrates his individual championship after stroke play concludes during the Division I Men's Golf Championship held at Omni La Costa Resort & Spa on May 27, 2024 in Carlsbad, California.

Hiroshi Tai with the NCAA individual championship trophy.

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Hiroshi Tai wasn’t on anyone’s short list to win this year’s NCAA Division I men’s golf individual title.

The 22-year-old Georgia Tech sophomore is ranked 70th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking and had only three top-10 finishes and no wins on his resume this season, but a final-round charge on a tough-playing La Costa made Tai the surprise champion.

Tai began his final round three shots off the lead, but after a strong opening nine, he led by two at the turn.

Then: disaster. Ay the par-3 8th, Tai’s penultimate hole, he found the greenside bunker and from a plugged lie made a triple-bogey, dropping him out of the lead by a shot.

After a clutch up-and-down on the 9th, his final hole, Tai signed for a round of one-under 71, three-under overall. Then, he waited.

Some of the most recognizable names in men’s amateur golf had a chance to overtake Tai down the stretch, but they failed to do so. Vanderbilt’s Gordon Sargent, who already has his PGA Tour card, lost two shots over his last six holes. He had a 10-footer for birdie on his final hole to force a playoff, but the putt lipped out. Other contenders, like Auburn freshman Jackson Koivun, who won the prestigous Ben Hogan Award last week, were unable to make the birdies they needed to claim victory. More than an hour after completing his round, Tai was crowned champion by a single shot. Six players, including Sargent and Koivun, finished T2.

Tai delayed his college career to serve in the Singapore military, and credited his service with helping his game.

“I think it just let me mature and kind of figure out what I really wanted to do,” Tai told Golf Channel. “It made me appreciate everything that I do have playing golf almost every day. Amazing courses as well. Made me realize how great of a place, how lucky I am to be at Georgia Tech.”

With this victory, Tai becomes the fourth Georgia Tech player in school history to claim an individual title, and the first since Troy Matteson in 2002. The NCAA win also comes with an enviable perk: a spot in the 2025 Masters at Augusta National.

Tai won’t have long to revel in his victory, though. Thanks in large part to his play, Georgia Tech will continue competing in the team match-play portion of the NCAA championship, which begins Tuesday. Editor

As a four-year member of Columbia’s inaugural class of female varsity golfers, Jessica can out-birdie everyone on the masthead. She can out-hustle them in the office, too, where she’s primarily responsible for producing both print and online features, and overseeing major special projects, such as GOLF’s inaugural Style Is­sue, which debuted in February 2018. Her origi­nal interview series, “A Round With,” debuted in November of 2015, and appeared in both in the magazine and in video form on

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