Razorback Men’s Golf, Long Win Blessings Collegiate Invitational

Mike Cawood

FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas collected a clean sweep at the 2021 Blessings Collegiate Invitational including the men’s team title, the men’s individual champion in Luke Long, the combined team title with the Razorback women and the combined best ball with Mateo Fernandez de Oliveira and Brooke Matthews. Matthews additionally won the women’s individual title for the second straight year and the Razorback women won their second straight team title.

The Razorbacks were clinging to a one-stroke lead through 36 holes and, after a tough start on hole won with three bogeys and a double, Arkansas dropped to third to start the final round. However, Fernandez de Oliveira reeled off five birdies over his next six holes to help the Hogs reclaim the lead. Arkansas played the par-3, 8th hole at 3-under and never looked back, winning the team title by 13 strokes.

Arkansas posted the best round of the day at 7-under and finished 18-under for 54 holes (278-287-281=846). Second-place Arizona was -6 on Wednesday and climbed four spots to finish runner-up (859). Ole Miss was third (861) with Tennessee, North Carolina and Illinois tying for fourth (863).

What makes the Blessings Collegiate Invitational unique is, not only do the men and women play at the same time, but there is also a combined men’s and women’s champion and a combined men’s and women’s best ball champion. Arkansas’ men and women combined t shoot 27-under-par and defeated second-place Arizona’s men and women by 47 strokes. Fernandez de Oliveira and Matthews won the combined best ball by one stroke with a score of 25-under-par.

Long, who led after each day, was even at the turn with two birdies and two bogeys. The Fayetteville native then birdied holes 10 and 11 and looked to be in control. However, after back-to-back bogeys combined with a hole-in-one by Fernandez de Oliveira cut Long’s lead to one through 14 holes. Long answered by chipping in for eagle on the par-5, 15th and held on for the 3-stroke win.

Long claims the first medalist honor of his collegiate career, finishing 67-67-71 for an 11-under-par 205, and has seven top-5 collegiate finishes.

As mentioned, Fernandez de Oliveira carried the Razorbacks early. The Junior started his day with a double-bogey but rallied with five birdies over his next six holes. Despite dropping a shot on the par-4, 9th hole, he birdied the par-4, 12th then record his first career hole-in-one on the 225-yard, par-3, 13th to get to within one stroke of his teammate and leader Long. However, Long’s eagle on the 15th hole ended Fernandez de Oliveira’s hopes for a win.

Fernandez de Oliveira records his second top-3 finish in two events this season, finishing runner-up at the Blessings and third at the season-opening Carmel Cup. Fernandez de Oliveira tied his career low with a 4-under, 68 Wednesday and finished three strokes off the lead to tie for second (68-71-68=208/-8).

Segundo Oliva Pinto also played his part on the front nine with four birdies over a five-hole span. He finished with a 2-under-par 70 and tied for 15th with a 54-hole score of 216. Wil Gibson, who birdied to close round two, turned in an even-par 72 Wednesday and climbed 10 spots to finish tied for 38th (78-75-72=225). Perico also tied for 38th (73-74-78=225)

A pair of Razorbacks – Juan Camilo Vesga and Jon Daly II – played as individuals. Vesga posted a 1-over-par 73 in the final and jumped eight spots to finish 34th (77-74-73=224) and Daly II finished 49th (83-68-78=229).

Arkansas will have little time to bask in the glory of a strong week as the new SEC Match Play Championship begins Sunday in Birmingham, Ala., at Shoal Creek.

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