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Thomas Giroux, with 'chip on shoulder,' makes Oakland golf history

Thomas Giroux was a bit lonely at this week's NCAA golf regional in Columbus, Ohio, competing as an individual, without the rest of his team by his side.

Now, Giroux will take his one-man show to the NCAA Championships.

Giroux, a grad student from Georgetown, Ontario, Canada, shot a three-day total of 3-under par, capping the week with a 1-under Wednesday at the Scarlet Course on the campus of Ohio State to finish in third place overall. He finished first among individual qualifiers, earning his spot in the NCAA Championships.

Giroux becomes the first player in Oakland history to make the NCAA Championships. It's something that not even Brian Stuard, the PGA Tour mainstay, never even did when he was breaking every other record while playing for the Golden Grizzlies.

"Yeah, it's pretty cool," Giroux said while making the drive back from Columbus on Wednesday. "Honestly, if you'd have asked me in my first year, if you asked me in five years, would you be competing for a national championship, I'd probably tell you no. I've definitely improved a lot in my time.

"It's pretty cool representing the little guy on the big stage. It's something that's never been done."

Giroux, 23, will be the only men's player from a Michigan college playing in the NCAA Championships, set for May 27 to June 1 at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona. On the women's side, Michigan will play in nationals, starting Friday, also at Grayhawk.

The Michigan State men's team, competing in the regional in Bryan, Texas, finished in eighth place, 17 shots out of advancing. Sophomore August Meekhof led the way for the Spartans, finishing at even par, tied for 17th. James Piot, the reigning U.S. Amateur champ from Canton, finished his decorated collegiate career tied for 29th, at 3-over. He now will turn pro and compete in next month's U.S. Open, and select PGA Tour tournaments, including possibly the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit in July.

Giroux, meanwhile, is more than happy to remain an amateur for another couple weeks.

"Yep, I'm gonna delay that," Giroux said, with a laugh. "I'm perfectly OK with that if I get to contend for a national championship."

In Scottsdale, Giroux will join the 30 teams and five other individuals who qualified for nationals. From regionals, the top six individuals — one per site among those not on advancing teams — make nationals.

Giroux, the Horizon League champion in 2021 who finished third this year, credited his driving with getting him to the promised land.

He entered Wednesday's final round in solid shape, but struggled a bit to start that round, making the turn at 1-over. He missed a good birdie opportunity at No. 12, which irked him.

Giroux said the 14th hole, a long par 4, was the difference-maker in the final round. He hit a decent drive but still found the rough, where he didn't have the greatest lie and faced 173 yards to a tucked pin. Giroux hit a pitching wedge, expecting a jumper, and got it. He hit the approach shot to 6 feet, made the birdie, and enjoyed a relatively stress-free march to the clubhouse from there.

In the end, his spot in nationals was secured by two shots.

Giroux credited assistant coach Chris Handy for his guidance all week. So Giroux wasn't completely alone.

"It's a bit different. The coach is there with you, but it's yourself and not the whole team. All the attention's on you," said Giroux, who plans to play a U.S. Open qualifier in Dallas before arriving in Scottsdale. "It kind of puts a little chip on your shoulder, because you're the only one representing your team, and obviously, you want to represent them well."

Meanwhile, in the Division II men's golf finals at TPC of Michigan in Dearborn this week, Grand Valley State redshirt freshman Charles DeLong (DeWitt) tied for seventh place at 3-over. The Lakers, as a team, placed 16th over the three-day event. The top eight teams, led by Central Missouri, advanced to match play, beginning Thursday.

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Twitter: @tonypaul1984