Notebook: Ping/Golfweek Preview will return
An old friend returns to the college golf schedule this coming fall and, with match play now part of the NCAA Championship, some changes in the invitation criteria for the Ping/Golfweek Preview have been made.
The event, not held this past fall due to scheduling conflicts at Riviera Country Club near Los Angeles, will make its return Sept. 23-25 at Capital City Club’s Crabapple Course just north of Atlanta. It will consist of 15 teams playing 18 holes each day with a practice round Sept. 22.
A look ahead...
What: Atlantic Coast Conference Championship
When: Friday-Sunday, April 20-22
Where: Old North State Club, New London, N.C.
Why it’s important: Georgia Tech has dominated this event in recent years and will be seeking its fourth consecutive ACC title. But the Yellow Jackets, No. 8 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, will be facing four other top-25 teams who will be vying to end Tech’s streak: Duke (18), Clemson (19), Virginia (22) and Florida State (24). The Jackets will be extremely comfortable on the Old North State layout, however, after having posted a school-record 33-under 831 score and defeating Duke by 20 shots a year ago.
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What: Southeastern Conference Championship
When: Friday-Sunday, April 20-22
Where: Sea Island Golf Club, St. Simons Island, Ga.
Why it’s important: Three top-10 teams with a combined 13 victories this season – No. 2 Alabama, No. 4 Auburn and No. 9 Arkansas – will try to build momentum for the postseason at this annual showdown. The Razorbacks claim seven of those titles, so it’s obvious they know how to win. But so do a couple of other schools, especially at this event: Georgia (seven) and Florida (three) have combined for 10 of the past 14 SEC titles, although the Bulldogs (No. 26) and Gators (No. 23) are ranked lower than usual this season. Also keep an eye on No. 17 LSU.
From its inception in 1989, the Preview has been geared to take place each fall at the site of the following spring’s NCAA Division I Men’s Championship.
While the event will remain strictly stroke play, the addition of match play at the finals has led to organizers slightly changing the format in which teams can earn an invitation to compete.
The host team, which will be Georgia Tech this fall, gets an automatic invite. After that, the eight teams qualifying for the match-play portion of this year’s NCAA finals will receive invitations (previously it was the four semifinalists), and they will be joined by the top 5 teams (previously, it had been the top 10) in the final Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.
The final spot will be an at-large selection, chosen by Ping and Golfweek. In addition, any spots that overlap – i.e., if the host is among the final eight NCAA schools, or several top-5 teams make it to the final eight – will become at-large selections.
“We are excited to bring the Preview back on the schedule for the 2012-13 season,” said Scott Sullivan of Ping. “It is one of the most respected events in college golf, and we will continue to keep it that way. Our new invitation criteria will give all those teams who advance to the NCAA finals an opportunity to play their way into the Preview, and we feel that is a big positive.”
Added Golfweek publisher Jason Redditt: “Ping and Golfweek have long been huge supporters of college golf, and the Preview has been one example of that support. We are happy to have the event back in place, and we know Capital City Club and the Crabapple Course will make for an exciting and challenging tournament.”
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POSTSEASON PUSH: The road to the regionals and the NCAA postseason has opened,and traffic is picking up at a steady pace.
The first team to stamp its ticket as an automatic qualifier is Chattanooga, No. 36 in the latest Golfweek rankings. The Mocs, paced by Stephan Jaeger’s 11-stroke individual victory, captured the Southern Conference title Tuesday, finishing at 3-under 861 and beating Georgia Southern by 19 shots.
They were joined as automatic qualifiers by three more conference champions Wednesday:
• No. 13 North Florida finished at 11-over 875 and outdueled East Tennessee State by four shots to win the Atlantic Sun Conference title.
• Led by medalist Robert Karlsson, No. 33 Liberty set a Big South Conference record at 20-under 844, 10 strokes better than Coastal Carolina.
• No. 38 St. Mary’s, behind medalist Ben Geyer, shot 20-under 844 to beat San Francisco by nine strokes for the West Coast Conference Championship, the first WCC title for the Gaels.
“I started as a player in 1994, and I’ve been trying to win this tournament ever since,” said St. Mary’s head coach Scott Hardy. “We’ve been close, but haven’t been able to pull it off.”
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AT-LARGE CANDIDATES: Three of the first four automatic qualifiers, with the exception of St. Mary’s in the WCC, likely won’t be having much company from their respective conferences in the postseason:
• Chattanooga will be the lone ranger from the Southern, as the league’s only other top-100 teams, Georgia Southern (88) and College of Charleston (92), do not have head-to-head records of .500 or better.
• It will be borderline in the Big South. Coastal Carolina, at No. 75, has an outside chance for an at-large selection, as does No. 77 Campbell, which finished fourth at the conference event.
• At No. 40, Kennesaw State will definitely join North Florida in the postseason from the Atlantic Sun, with Florida Gulf Coast, fourth at the conference event, a definite longshot at No. 83. East Tennessee won’t make it under the .500 rule.
• St. Mary’s should have at least a pair of fellow WCC teams join it. Expect No. 59 San Diego and No. 60 San Francisco to gain at-large spots, with No. 74 BYU also still in the running.
Between now and May 6, the remaining 29 conference champions that are automatic qualifiers will be determined, setting up the NCAA Men’s Golf Committee announcement of the remaining at-large selections on May 7.
One thing is for sure: It’s going to get quite interesting from here on out.