NCAA Men’s Regionals preview

(Clockwise, from top left) Texas A&M’s John Hurley, Oklahoma State’s Peter Uihlein, Washington’s Nick Taylor, Stanford’s Sihwan Kim, UCLA’s Pontus Widegren and Oregon’s Eugene Wong.

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1Cheng Tsung PanWashington  67.01 
2Lee McCoyGeorgia  67.57 
3Ollie SchniederjansGA Tech  67.59 
4Maverick McNealyStanford  67.76 
5Charlie DanielsonIllinois  68.42 

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2Florida State 69.55 
3Oregon 70.00 
4Texas 70.08 
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College Golf

NCAA Men’s Regionals preview

Lance Ringler and Asher Wildman discuss which teams will advance to the NCAA Championship.

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The NCAA Men’s Regionals kick off Thursday, with 81 teams vying for a spot at the NCAA Championship. The top 5 teams from each regional advance to the national championship, to be played June 1-6 at The Honors Course in Chattanooga, Tenn.

ALPHARETTA REGIONAL

When: May 20-22

Where: Capital City Club (Crabapple), Alpharetta, Ga.

Who: Four of the top 25 teams in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings: Oklahoma State (1), Arizona State (14), host Georgia Tech (18) and Clemson (17).

Scoop: No. 1 Oklahoma State had an erratic spring, but is coming off an 13-shot victory at the Big 12 Championship. The Cowboys have made 63 consecutive championships. There’s pressure to keep that streak going, but the Cowboys are more focused on making a statement and showing why they’re the country’s top team.

Short shots: Host Georgia Tech is playing in an NCAA regional for the 13th consecutive year . . . . Furman, the No. 8 seed, is making its fourth regional appearance in school history and first since 2004. Furman won the Southern Conference title by 16 strokes . . . . Georgia State’s Tom Sherreard, who is playing as an individual, tied for 19th in the 2008 British Open.

Who can crack the top 5?: Mississippi, the seventh seed, has finished inside the top 5 in five consecutive events, including a runner-up finish at the SEC Championship.

Fun fact: The Capital City Club is a private social club in Atlanta. It was chartered in 1883, which makes it one of the oldest private clubs in the nation. The club’s Crabapple Course hosted the 2003 WGC-American Express Championship, which Tiger Woods won with a 6-under 274 total. Only seven players broke par for 72 holes, and the field averaged 72.4 strokes on the par-70 layout.

Solo act: Seven of the top 30 players in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings are in the field. Three of them are Oklahoma State Cowboys – Kevin Tway (14), Peter Uihlein (21) and Morgan Hoffmann (26). Tway won a regional in each of his first two seasons (2009 South Central, 2008 Central).

The highest-ranked player in the field is Mississippi junior Jonathan Randolph (7). He’s won three events this year, and finished in the top 3 in five of six starts this spring. Eighth-ranked Jesper Kennegard (8) of Arizona State is the only other top-10 player in the field; he won the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters and finished second at the Pac-10 Championship.

Wake Forest’s Brendan Gielow (15), a member of last year’s U.S. Walker Cup team, and J.T. Griffin (30), who plays for host Georgia Tech, are the other top-30 players in the field.

Field:

Individuals:

  • 1. Mitchell Gregson, Kansas State (81)
  • 2. Kelvin Day, Charleston Southern (162)
  • 3. Jeff Karlsson, Kennessaw State (184)
  • 4. Tom Sherreard, Georgia State (156)
  • 5. Garrett Medeiros, Wofford (225)
  • 6. Mark Joye, Wofford (238)
  • 7. Joe Ida, Kansas State (136)
  • 8. Justin Martinson, Delaware (377)
  • 9. Korbin Kuehn, UMKC (936)
  • 10. Robert Cerabone, Fairleigh Dickinson (1,228)

– Sean Martin


COLLEGE STATION REGIONAL

When: May 20-22

Where: The Traditions Club, College Station, Texas

Who: Eleven of the 14 teams in top 60 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings, led by No. 2 and host Texas A&M, SEC champion Georgia (12), Texas Tech (13), TCU (21) and North Florida (22).

Scoop: Defending NCAA champ Texas A&M is the team to beat. The Aggies have not finished out of the top 5 in 12 starts this season. Before placing second at the Big 12 Championship, they won their own tournament on this course by a whopping 21 shots over top-ranked Oklahoma State. Georgia has really kicked it into gear this spring with three wins, including in its last two starts. Texas Tech has also played well over the last month. Keep an eye out on West Coast Conference champion Pepperdine.

photo

Sean Dale

Short shots: North Florida has quietly had one of the best seasons in program history. Led by Sean Dale, the Ospreys have posted nine top-5 finishes in 11 starts, highlighted by victories at their own John Hayt and the Bancorp South events. UNF won two national titles at the NAIA level, and in 1994 placed second at the NCAA Division II Championship. Now the Ospreys are looking for their first trip to the NCAA Division I finals.

Who can crack the top 5?: It may be a long stretch, but if Dustin Garza can get a little – maybe a lot – of help from his friends, 11th-seed Wichita State might be the big surprise. Garza has been a one-man show for the Missouri Valley Conference champion Shockers, but coach Grier Jones is going to have to rally the rest of his troops.

Fun fact: Which TCU team will coach Bill Montigel see this week in Aggieland? Will it be the one that won the Prestige in the fall and the National Invitational Tournament this spring? Or will it be the one that has only one other top-5 showing all season – that one coming in its last outing at the Mountain West Conference Championship? He’s certainly hoping it’s not the one that finished sixth last month at the Aggie Invitational on this same course – 52 strokes behind winner Texas A&M.

Solo act: Georgia bring two of the top 4 players in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings – No. 1 Russell Henley, the SEC Player of the Year and Ben Hogan Award finalist, and No. 4 Harris English. No. 11 Garza has won seven times this season, including the MVC title. The Aggies will come out with a solid 1-2 punch in No. 12 Andrea Pavan and No. 22 Jordan Russell, who was medalist at the Aggie Invitational. Texas Tech also is solid at the top of its lineup with Nils Floren (17) and Chris Ward (32).

Field:

Individuals:

  • 1. Oscar Zetterwall, New Orleans (127)
  • 2. Ken Looper, New Orleans (113)
  • 3. Philipp Fendt, Louisiana-Lafayette (97)
  • 4. Scott Kelly, Sam Houston State (176)
  • 5. Jason Coleman, Grambling (1,471)

– Ron Balicki


NOTRE DAME REGIONAL

When: May 20-22

Where: The Warren Golf Course, Notre Dame, Ind.

Who: Five of the top 30 teams in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings: Stanford (3), Florida (6), Florida State (19), Duke (24), LSU (30).

photo

Stanford sophomore Andrew Yun

Scoop: Stanford is the most talented team in the regional, despite failing to win a tournament since early February. (The Cardinal won the opening event of the spring, the Mauna Lani Invitational.) Stanford is searching for its ninth NCAA Championship title, and their second in four years. A few weeks ago, Stanford was in control at the Pac-10 Championship before Washington staged a final-round comeback, rallying from seven strokes back to win. Three Stanford players finished in the top 10, however, led by Joseph Bramlett (T-4).

Short shots: Duke has shown good form entering the regional, finishing in the top 3 in each of its past three events, including a T-3 at the ACC Championship . . . . N.C. State, meanwhile, posted a pedestrian seventh-place finish at the 11-team ACC tournament, and has finished inside the top 5 just once in its past five events . . . . Michigan earned its third straight at-large bid to an NCAA regional. The Wolverines, who are on pace to break their team scoring record for the third consecutive year, had five top-5 finishes in their past 10 starts . . . . Indiana qualified for the NCAA regionals for the sixth time in the last seven years.

Who can crack the top 5?: Keep an eye on Iowa, which made a surprising run to advance to the NCAA Championship last year. The Hawkeyes are coming off a second-place finish at the Big 10 Championship, their best performance in the conference tournament since winning the title in 1992. And Northwestern, although wildly inconsistent (four top 5s this spring, after placing outside the top 10 three times in the fall), could make a return trip to the NCAA Championship. Wildcats senior David Lipsky was medalist two weeks ago at the Big Ten Championship.

Fun facts: Stanford won the 1942 NCAA Championship – its fourth of nine titles – at South Bend (Ind.) Country Club . . . . LSU advanced to an NCAA regional for the third consecutive year. Last year, the Tigers narrowly missed qualifying for the NCAA Championship, finishing three strokes back of fifth place . . . . This is the second straight year Iowa has advanced to the NCAA postseason, the first time it has accomplished that feat since 1960.

Solo act: Stanford’s David Chung, who will represent the United States at the Palmer Cup, is the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 13, but Florida’s Tyson Alexander, who had three top-5 finishes this season, could make a run for the individual title, too. Fellow Gator Tim McKenney and Florida State’s Brooks Koepka, Nos. 36 and 41 in Golfweek’s rankings, respectively, also are good bets to post a high finish. And it’s hard to discount reigning NCAA individual champion Matt Hill. The N.C. State junior, who will turn pro after the NCAAs, won the Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate in late March, one of his four top-10 finishes this year. 

  • 1. Stanford (3)
  • 2. Florida (6)
  • 3. Florida State (19)
  • 4. Duke (24)
  • 5. LSU (30)
  • 6. North Carolina State (40)
  • 7. Iowa (48)
  • 8. Michigan (49)
  • 9. Northwestern (50)
  • 10. Indiana (66)
  • 11. Virginia Tech (61)
  • 12. Murray State (Ohio Valley Conference) (124)
  • 13. Detroit (Horizon League) (143)
  • 14. St. Francis (Pennsylvania) (Northeast Conference) (261)

Individuals:

  • 1. Jack Newman, Michigan State (146)
  • 2. Ben Pisani, Minnesota (76)
  • 3. Erich Johnston, Purdue (157)
  • 4. Ryan Stocke, Youngstown State (953)
  • 5. Doug Hoppe, Iona (1,223)

– Ryan Lavner


NEW HAVEN REGIONAL

When: May 20-22

Where: The Course at Yale, New Haven, Conn.

Who: Two of the top 10 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings (No. 7 Texas and No. 8 UCLA) and six in the top 31 (No. 15 South Carolina, No. 20 Virginia, No. 27 Alabama, No. 31 East Tennessee State).

Scoop: The farthest east the UCLA men’s golf team traveled during the regular season? Try Arizona.

And so it seems NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Committee must have decided to reward the Bruins, one of the six No. 1 seeds in the men’s regionals, with a trip across the country, to The Course at Yale in New Haven, Conn., a challenging old-style track known for its long rough, blind shots and large greens.

But will the travel affect UCLA? Probably not, says history.

Last year, the Bruins flew a similar distance to Kentucky for the Central Regional, and played their final 36 holes in 5 under to come back and beat regional-favorite Washington for the title.

This year, UCLA flies an even younger, and probably more talented, squad to the Northeast. Sophomores Gregor Main and Alex Shi Yup Kim are the Bruins’ highest-ranked players at Nos. 40 and 42, respectively. They are followed by international freshmen Pontus Widegren (51) of Sweden and Pedro Figueiredo (90) of Portugal. Another freshman, Mario Clemens (308) last month tied for second with Figueiredo at the ASU Thunderbird Invitational.

The Bruins, coming off a disappointing eighth-place finish at the Pac-10 Championship, are looking to advance to their eighth consecutive NCAA Championship.

“(Yale is) a golf course that’s old-style and will require smart decision-making,” said UCLA coach Derek Freeman, who led his team to a national championship two years ago. “The team is looking forward to making the trip. We have a very motivated team right now that’s looking forward to regional competition.”

Short shots: No. 2 seed Texas, at No. 7 the highest-ranked team at Yale, is looking to advance to its third consecutive NCAA Championship . . . . Third-seeded South Carolina, ranked 15th, is playing in its third NCAA regional at The Course at Yale. The Gamecocks failed to advance in 2004, but qualified for the finals in 1991 when they were led by current PGA Tour player Brett Quigley . . . . Last year, Alabama won its NCAA regional at Galloway National Golf Club in New Jersey.

Who can crack the top 5?: Penn State, at No. 74 one of the higher-ranked norther teams, who is used to playing this type of golf course. The underdog Nittany Lions finished second at Yale in 2004, the last time a regional was hosted here, and went on to finish 15th at the NCAA Championship.

“Yale is certainly a place where we have had success, but this is a new team six years later,” head coach Greg Nye said. “We are going to have to be prepared for this unusual golf course and setting and come out ready to fight hard.”

Also look out for the Corey Nagy-led Charlotte 49ers, the No. 8 seed, who have advanced to the last three NCAA Championships.

Fun fact: Five teams will advance to the NCAA Championship, but they won’t be the only ones moving on this weekend at Yale. It also happens to be the start of commencement week at the Ivy League school.

Solo act: All eyes will be on Alabama sophomore Bud Cauley, No. 2 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, one of three finalists for the Ben Hogan Award. Cauley, who has been rumored to be turning professional after his college season ends, has won twice this year and leads Alabama 71.32 stroke average.

Also watch out for Texas sophomore Dylan Fritelli, No. 10, the Big 12 Conference Player of the Year who had top-5 finishes in nine of 11 regular-season events.

Nagy, No. 18, will also be looking to go out in style and help Charlotte advance to the NCAA Championship for a fourth year in a row.

Field:

Individuals:

  • 1. Max McKay, Liberty (229)
  • 2. Ben Herrera, Iowa State (166)
  • 3. Harold Varner, East Carolina (228)
  • 4. Robert Karlsson, Liberty (132)
  • 5. Scotty Williams, Pennsylvania (649)

BREMERTON REGIONAL

When: May 20-22

Where: Gold Mountain Golf Club, Bremerton, Wash.

Who: Three of the top 11 teams in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings - the most in the top 11 of any regional. The field is highlighted with winners of three of the top six conferences in college golf - Washington (Pac-10), Colorado State (Mountain West) and Illinois (Big Ten).

photo

Washington coach Matt Thurmond

Scoop: Washington has become a serious threat to win the NCAA title this year. Playing at home, the Huskies are nearly a lock to advance. Illinois is one of the darkhorses to win it all this year. The Illini will look to measure their game against the home team.

Short shots: Eastern Michigan earned its first at-large bid into postseason play and will make just its fourth regional appearance in program history.

Who can crack the top 5?: Colorado State certainly can finish in the top 5, but getting off to a good start and believing it can place in the top 5 will play a big role for the Rams. Looking for an underdog? How about New Mexico, which has played the 19th-ranked schedule this year and has beaten nine top-25 teams. This should allow the Lobos to play comfortably and not be afraid of a top-5 finish.

Fun fact: Gold Mountain hosted the Ping/Golfweek Preview last fall. The Preview is typically played at the site of the NCAA Championship, but The Honors Course elected not to host the Preview. Three teams - Washington, Southern California and Colorado State - in this regional field also participated in The Preview last Sept.

Solo act: Two of the top 5 players in college golf will tee it up at Gold Mountain: Washington’s Nick Taylor (No. 3) and Oregon State’s Diego Velasquez (No. 5). Both players are in the mix for national player of the year. A regional victory would go a long way in helping that cause.

Field:

Individuals:

  • 1. Espen Kofstad, Denver (50)
  • 2. Austin Graham, UC Davis (92)
  • 3. Brandon Crick, Nebraska (153)
  • 4. Gabe Maier, Wyoming (165)
  • 5. Rodolfo Cazaubon, North Texas (142)
  • 6. Kyle Peterman, Western Illinois (152)
  • 7. Ben Blundell, Oklahoma (224)
  • 8. Kevin Tucker, Washington State (163)
  • 9. Nathan Sutherland, Miami (Ohio) (275)
  • 10. Carlos Ortiz, North Texas (226)

– Lance Ringler


SAN DIEGO REGIONAL

When: May 20-22

Where: Carlton Oaks Golf Club, San Diego, Calif.

Who: At No. 9 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, top-seeded Oregon is the lowest-ranked team among the six regionals to hold the top position. The Ducks received the honor over No. 5 Augusta State, No. 6 Florida and No. 7 Texas, which were seeded lower in their respective divisions. One big reason: Oregon is No. 1 in the Golfstat head-to-head standings, which the NCAA Golf Committee uses as a criteria in the selection process.

photo

The Ducks celebrate their victory at the USC Collegiate Invitational.

Scoop: Is this the weakest of the six regionals? Some might think so. Other than second-seeded UNLV, there are no perennial golf powers teeing off in San Diego, and none of the teams seeded 1-7 won its conference championship. And in addition to Oregon’s Golfweek ranking, UNLV (No. 16) has the lowest ranking among the six second-seeded teams. Augusta State, however, has the highest Golfweek ranking (No. 5) among third-seeded teams.

Short shots: According to the Golfweek rankings, this region by far has the most-accomplished group of individuals. Four individuals in the top 85 – No. 60 Nate Barbee (Kansas), No. 65 Zack Fischer (Texas-Arlington), No. 83 Scott Travers (Santa Clara) and No. 85 Tom Whitney (Air Force) – are in the field. No other regional has more than one individual player in the top 90. . . . UNLV (1998) and California (2004) have one NCAA title each.

Who can crack the top 5?: Seventh-seeded Chattanooga has plenty of postseason experience, and the Mocs should be primed for a rebound after their disappointing seventh-place finish at the Southern Conference Championship. Plus they have the added motivation of playing the NCAA finals at The Honors Course, just outside their home city. But if a team can’t finish in the top 5 at the Southern Conference finals, can it really be picked to do so at NCAA regionals? And all that pressure to play at home can often work against a team. So go with sixth-seeded Cal, tryng to reach the NCAA finals for the first time in six seasons. The Bears have three victories this year, tying a school record for the regular season, and have been known to pull off a postseason surprise or two (see 2004 NCAA title).

Fun fact: Host San Diego State is ranked No. 23 despite not having a player within the top 100 individually. Sophomore J.J. Spaun is the highest-ranked Aztec at No. 112.

Solo act: There is little question that Whitney is the best service-academy player since Navy’s Billy Hurley in the early 2000s. Whitney, one of six finalists for the Byron Nelson Award, posted five top-3 finishes and seven top 5s this season, including a victory at the Triumph at Pauma Valley in mid-March. He is on track (71.4) to break his own school record for stroke average (72.0), set last season.

Field:

Individuals:

  • 1. Tom Whitney, Air Force (85)
  • 2. Scott Travers, Santa Clara (83)
  • 3. Nate Barbee, Kansas (60)
  • 4. Nick Delio, Cal State Northridge (189)
  • 5. Lloyd du Preez, Arkansas State (203)
  • 6. Zack Fischer, Texas-Arlington (65)
  • 7. Pierre-Alexis Rolland, Lamar (173)
  • 8. Justin Bardgett, Colorado (223)
  • 9. Jared Becher, Nevada (171)
  • 10. Paul Apyan, Southern Mississippi (252)

– Kevin Adams

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