Balicki: Playing 'Did You Know?' for the NCAAs . . .
If you follow college golf, even in the smallest way, you know that Oklahoma State will not be at the NCAA Championship finals this week at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif. It ends a run of 65 consecutive years in which a Cowboys team has competed for the national crown.
But, let's look ahead to who will be at Riviera with a little "Did You Know?" . . .
• 1. Of the 29 conference champions that earned automatic qualifying spots into the NCAA regionals, only 11 finished among the top five at their regional and advanced to the finals. Here’s the list: Illinois (Big Ten), Liberty (Big South), Lamar (Southland), Alabama (SEC), North Florida (Atlantic Sun), Kent State (Mid-American), Texas A&M (Big 12), Chattanooga (Southern), Memphis (Conference USA), California (Pac-12), and San Diego State (Mountain West). And, of the 11, four won their respective region title - Alabama (Southeast), Liberty (East), California (West) and Chattanooga (South Central).
• 2. Of the teams that qualified for match play and the Elite Eight at last year’s NCAA Championship at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla., only three made it through regional play and will be at Riviera: Illinois, UCLA and Georgia, which was runner-up at the 2011 championship. Failing to advance from last year’s match-play field were Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Duke, Georgia Tech and two-time defending champion Augusta State.
• 3. USC is serving as this year’s host team. The last time the host team captured the championship was 1989, when Oklahoma (co-host with Oklahoma State) won it all at Oak Tree Golf Club in Edmond.
• 4. The last time USC played host to this championship was 1988 at North Ranch Country Club in Westlake Village, Calif. And, it was the Trojans’ crosstown rival UCLA winning the title under the guidance of coach Eddie Merrins.
• 5. In addition to being host venue for this year’s NCAA Championship, Riviera also has been a long-time fixture on the PGA Tour’s annual schedule and has produced such winners as Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Lloyd Mangrum, Arnold Palmer, Billy Casper, Lanny Wadkins, Johnny Miller and, more recently, Fred Couples, Tom Kite, Nick Faldo, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson. The U.S. Open, U.S. Senior Open and PGA Championship also have been held at the historic club.