SORRENTO, Fla. – Charlotte’s Corey Nagy and Stefan Wiedergruen are inseparable, both in the lunchroom and on the leaderboard. Their presence on the latter has Charlotte on pace for an improbable NCAA Championship bid.
As head coach Adam Pry rounded up the team for post-round lunch Friday, Nagy wouldn’t leave for the dining room until Wiedergruen wrapped up an interview with a reporter. “I’ve got to wait for my man,” Nagy jokingly told his coach.
Wiedergruen (66-69) and Nagy (65-70) are both tied for third at 7-under 135 after two rounds at the NCAA Southeast Regional at RedTail Golf Club.
They’re a combined 14 under par after two rounds; their team is in fourth place at 10-under 558, two shots ahead of Kentucky and South Carolina. The top five teams after Saturday’s final round will advance to the NCAA finals May 26-30 at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio.
Charlotte finished third at the NCAA Championship two years ago, and reached No. 1 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings last season. But the 49ers have struggled this season after the graduation of three players – Jonas Enander Hedin, Trevor Murphy and Andrew DiBitetto.
Nagy and Wiedergruen are the only Charlotte players at RedTail that were also on that ‘07 team. Nagy finished tied for 35th at the NCAA Championship, while Wiedergruen participated in the conference tournament, but not the regionals or finals. Wiedergruen won last year’s Ping/Golfweek Preview.
This year’s team is No. 72 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings with a 43-81-2 record. The 49ers are 3-50-1 against the top 25 teams in the country.
Nagy and Wiedergruen encouraged Charlotte’s coaches to assemble a tough schedule this year, banking on an Atlantic-10 title as a back-up plan for a posteason bid in case the team ended with a losing record.
However, even an A-10 victory didn’t seem guaranteed last month, not after the 49ers finished eighth at their own Palisades Collegiate, including losses to Division II squads Belmont Abbey and West Florida. The 49ers also tied 140th-ranked Longwood University.
“We really had to do some soul-searching after that,” Pry said. “They’re great kids, and they work hard, but it was a good reminder that just because you put in the hours and work hard, it doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed that you’re going to play well.
“The five rounds we’ve played since then, it’s been night and day better. It’s not that our games are better, but we’ve been competing better.”
Two weeks after the Palisades debacle, Nagy and Wiedergruen finished 1-2 to lead the 49ers to a 10-shot victory and an automatic bid into the postseason.
“What was so great about A-10s was (Corey and Stefan) went out and did what they said they were going to do,” Pry said.
Even though they’re the only two Charlotte players to shoot sub-par rounds this week, Wiedergruen said he and Nagy don’t feel pressure to carry their team.
“We just play as good as we can,” Wiedergruen said, “and we’ll see what happens.”
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Arizona head coach Rick LaRose has close ties to Australia. He goes Down Under every winter to visit friends and compete in amateur tournaments.
LaRose is on the board for the NEC Master of the Amateurs, one of the world’s top amateur events held annually at Yarra Yarra Golf Club. Oklahoma State’s Rickie Fowler and Georgia’s Adam Mitchell competed in this year’s event, which was won by Mark Anderson, the former South Carolina standout and ‘08 Players Amateur champ.
There were some Australian acquantainces who tipped off LaRose to a promising young player named Tarquin MacManus.
LaRose was immediately impressed with MacManus, and the Arizona sophomore is showing why after two rounds at the Southeast Regional.
MacManus shot 66 Friday to finish two rounds at 13-under 129, five shots ahead of Central Florida’s David Johnson. MacManus played his first 35 holes without a bogey.
“He’s got ‘it’, whatever ‘it’ is,” LaRose said. “He has that thing that all great players have. It’s not swing, it’s not technique, it’s just something inside that you don’t teach.”
MacManus is No. 65 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.
Arizona is at 23-under 547, two shots behind Central Florida. Tyler Neal shot 67 Friday for the Wildcats and is tied for fifth individually, while the team’s other three players shot 72.
The Wildcats are coming off a ninth-place finish at the Pac-10 Championship, but feel a little more comfortable in central Florida than at Seattle Golf Club.
“This course suits us a little better,” LaRose said. “It’s more like Arizona, with the Bermudagrass, and there’s nothing tricky about it. It’s just there. Go get it.”
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Central Florida may be looking for its first NCAA Championship bid since 1992, but the Knights will still be in familiar position for Saturday’s final round. They have been in the final round’s final group in five of six spring tournaments, including victories at the Rio Pinar Invitational and Conference USA Championship.
“This team’s grown a lot,” head coach Nick Clinard said. “We have a pretty young team.”
Four of the five Knights at RedTail – Simon Ward, Brad Schneider, Devin Spies and Blayne Barber – are in their first season of Division I competition. The fifth, David Johnson, is in his second.
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Georgia shot the day’s low round, 9-under 275, to move from seventh to third place, three shots inside the cut line. All five Bulldogs shot par or better Friday, and three broke 70 – Hudson Swafford (67), Brian Harman (68) and Harris English (69).