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Men’s spring preview: Southland Conference

With three NCAA Championship berths, 11 NCAA Regional appearance and eight Southland Conference titles in the past 12 seasons, Lamar head coach Brian White has come to expect big things out of his teams.

“We’ve competed at a high level for a while,” said White, who is in his 14th season with the Cardinals. “My expectations are to do that every year.”

Lamar graduated three of its top players from last season – M.J. Dauffee, a two-time Southland Conference Championship medalist; Kevin Hesbois, whose birdie on the first playoff hole helped the Cardinals beat Central Arkansas for the conference title in a playoff last spring; and Xavier Feyaerts, a second-team All-Conference selection from a year ago.

But despite being in a bit of a rebuilding mode, White is still aiming at a fourth trip to the NCAA Championship. The Cardinals previously advanced past regionals in 2006, 2007 and last season, when they won the Southland Conference title, finished fourth at the NCAA Greensboro Regional and placed 25th at the NCAA Championship at Riviera.

To make it to the Capital City Club in Alpharetta, Ga., this spring might mean a bit more.

“I’ve had some really talented teams that have made it to the NCAA Championship,” White said. “But when you have a team that may be a little less talented, that’s more satisfying.”

Lamar played a tough fall schedule, which included trips to the Gopher Invitational, Windon Memorial, David Toms Intercollegiate, Royal Oaks Intercollegiate and Gifford Collegiate. But even though getting a win out of that slate would’ve been difficult, White was still disappointed with the results. Lamar didn’t finish better than eighth this fall, and no individual notched a top 10 or a soring average of better than 74.9.

“I’m trying to find out where we are,” White said. “During the fall we had some very good golf not show up in the team score because of some very poor golf. I know we’re going to get better, but hopefully things will level out and we’ll get consistent results from everyone this spring.”

Senior Erik Knudsen and junior Stephane Dubois led the Cardinals during the fall. Both players played in all 15 rounds and were in the top 3 on the team in scoring average. But like White said, their strong play has been cancelled out by some not-so-strong performances. Senior Marc Dobias, and sophomores Luke Jerling and Gustaf Burenstam, who all posted scoring averages of 75.8 or worse.

Especially disappointing for White was Jerling, who was the conference’s freshman of the year and tied for seventh at the NCAA Greensboro Regional last season. Jerling posted a team-worst 79.5 scoring average in 15 fall rounds.

“You have a kid who came in and performed really well as a freshman and then he comes back to school and plays terrible to be quite honest,” White said of Jerling, a self-taught player who has been battling some technical issues with his swing.

Improved play from Jerling would almost certainly give Lamar a chance to make a run at qualifying for its sixth NCAA Championship in school history. But the Cardinals will have to get out of the conference first. Central Arkansas ended the fall ranked No. 85 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings, nine spots ahead of Lamar, and won the Golfweek Program Challenge. It also boasts the conference’s top player in Pep Angles.

Last season, White’s squad got off to a slow start in the fall, but won the Border Olympics and finished second at the Wolfpack Spring Open in the spring before winning conference and advancing all the way to the NCAA Championship.

“We would have three guys play well and two guys not,” White said. “By the end of the year we were playing to what our level was.”

And White expects things to play out the same way this spring.

• • •

Where it stands now

Top of the class: Central Arkansas

Best player this fall: Pep Angles, Central Arkansas

• • •

Past champions

2012: Lamar

2011: Texas-Arlington

2010: Southeastern Louisiana

2009: Lamar

2008: Lamar

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Conference capsules

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