It has been a topsy-turvy season for Charlotte.
From the beginning, most knew the 49ers would face a rebuilding process after putting together consecutive top-10 finishes at the NCAA Championship (third in 2007 and T-8 in ’08).
First, Charlotte lost three seniors to graduation. Then, midway through the season, it lost its coach when Jamie Green left to take over at Duke. And for the most part, the 49ers also lost on the golf course.
In other words, panning the tournament streams for a treasure, the 49ers pretty much sifted out sand and worthless stones.
But all those setbacks, hurdles and disappointments no longer mean a thing. That’s because the 49ers struck gold last week.
Led by tournament medalist Corey Nagy, Charlotte cruised to an 11-shot victory to capture its fourth consecutive Atlantic 10 Conference Championship on April 26 at Mission Inn Resort in Howie-In-The-Hills, Fla.
So, instead of taking the next five months off to lick their wounds, the 49ers will be on an upswing as they head to their fifth consecutive postseason appearance.
This is one of those times I just love the automatic qualifier. Win your conference and you are going to NCAA regionals – no matter what your overall won-loss record or how you performed in tournaments throughout the season.
During the fall, Charlotte placed 12th at the Ping/Golfweek Preview, ninth at Brickyard, 18th (dead last) at Isleworth and fifth at Corde Valle.
Then the 49ers bid a sad, and emotional, farewell to Green, and assistant coach Adam Pry was named interim coach for the rest of the season.
The struggles continued as the 49ers finished 11th at UNLV’s Southern Highlands event, 16th at the Calloway Match Play, 13th at the Administaff, and T-8 at their own Palisades event.
They had only one shot at making the postseason and that was to win the Atlantic 10.
So with a No. 70 Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking and an overall record of 43-81-2, the 49ers will waltz into one of the six regionals May 14-16.
“This is really sweet because the guys have continued to work hard throughout this very difficult season and have done everything that was asked of them,” said Pry, who received an added boost by being named A-10 Coach of the Year. “They all put in a lot of extra time, and it paid off.”
Said Nagy, who was runner-up at the A-10 Championship a year ago and tied for third in 2007: “This is a great win for me, but more importantly I’m really happy for the team. We had our backs to the wall for a little bit, and we wanted it so bad. And to get this title in Adam’s first year is pretty cool.”
So is competing in the NCAA postseason.
• • •
At 6 p.m. (EDT), this coming Monday (May 4), the NCAA Division I Golf Committee will announce the 81 teams and 45 individuals who will be – and where they will be – playing region championships.
This year is extremely interesting as the NCAA has expanded its regional sites from three to six in order to make each event more manageable to run and operate.
In determining who goes where, the committee tries its best to keep each of the fields as balanced as possible while also taking into consideration travel distance and cost. Trust me, it’s no easy task and often times teams from the east go west and visa versa.
Expect to see a lot of West Coast teams making their way eastward as only one of the six regionals, to be played May 14-16, is truly in the far west – that being the one at Lake Merced Golf Club in Daly City, Calif., just outside San Francisco.
• • •
After doing a little speculating and trying to keep teams as close to home as possible, yet still maintain a balance of power in each region, here’s what I have come up with as far as predicting each region’s top four seeds – using the top 24 teams in the latest Golfweek/Sagarin College Ranking (ranking in parentheses):
Karsten Creek Golf Club, Stillwater, Okla.: 1. Oklahoma State (1), 2. Arkansas (9), 3. TCU (20), 4. San Diego State (23).
University of Texas Golf Club, Austin, Texas: 1. Stanford (4), 2. Texas A&M (12), 3. LSU (18), 4. Texas (21).
Red Tail Golf Club, Sorrento, Fla.: 1. Georgia (2), 2. Florida (8), 3. Texas Tech (15), 4. UCF (19).
Galloway (N.J.) National Golf Club: 1. Georgia Tech (7), 2. South Carolina (10), 3. Indiana (13), 4. N.C. State (24).
The Club at Olde Stone, Bowling Green, Ky.: 1. Clemson (6), 2. Alabama (11), 3. Illinois (14), 4. UCLA (17).
Lake Merced Golf Club, Daly City, Calif.: 1. USC (3), 2. Washington (5), 3. Arizona State (16), 4. UNLV (22).
The good news for teams who disagree with my setups is I don’t have any say-so in the process. Regardless, I suspect that come Monday evening after regional berths are awarded, there still will be some whining among coaches, players and fans.
Instead of complaining, teams should just get over it and go play – no matter where it is.
I’ll guarantee you one thing: No matter where the NCAA sends them, you won’t be hearing any complaints from Pry and his Charlotte team.