After the men’s Division I NCAA Golf Committee announced late Monday evening the invitation list for this year’s region championships, Cal State Northridge junior Chris Russo thought his college season was over.
That’s because Northridge was not among the teams to earn an at-large invitation and he was not included among the individuals who were invited.
The next day, Russo and Northridge coach Jim Bracken were booking airline tickets for a cross-country trip to Greensboro, N.C., for the East Regional, one of six such events to be played May 17-19 around the nation.
Russo gained an invitation as an individual when Rhys Enoch, an East Tennessee State fifth-year senior, declined his invitation.
“Chris is really excited,” Bracken said. “It will be a great experience and a great opportunity for him. I feel he’s very deserving (of the invitation). He had a good year. He won a couple of tournaments. He had a little lapse around midyear, and that might have dropped him down a little (on invitation list). But he played well at the end. It’s great for him and for our program.”
Enoch, who actually graduated last year and started graduate studies this year after red-shirting in 2010-11 because of a torn labrum, decided to return home to Wales and begin playing in Europe.
“He is ready to move on to the next phase of his career,” said ETSU coach Fred Warren, citing two reasons.
Enoch gained an exemption to the European Tour’s May 31-June 3 Wales Open at Celtic Manor, which conflicts with the NCAA Championship.
“Even if Rhys played well enough at regionals to advance to the NCAA (finals), he would be faced with a new choice,” Warren said.
Also, Enoch was invited to compete for Europe in the Michael Bonallack Trophy against Asia in late April, right after the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship, in which ETSU finished second. With a less-than-.500 won-loss record, ETSU did not qualify for the NCAA post-season.
NCAA rules do not allow a student-athlete to participate on an outside team during the academic year, other than representing his country.
Though a continent is larger than a country, Warren said he received an initial opinion, and that of the school’s compliance department, that Enoch would not be able to play in the Bonallack Trophy and still have collegiate eligibility.
Thus, Enoch did not apply for a special waiver. The day after returning from the A-Sun tournament, he returned to Europe and, in effect, ended his college eligibility.
For good measure, Enoch won his foursomes, fourball and singles matches and was named the event’s player of the week as Europe won, 20.5-11.5.