Texas A&M sees SEC Championship as springboard

Sophomore Ben Crancer and the Texas A&M Aggies will compete at the Southeastern Conference Championship Friday through Sunday.

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Texas A&M was the newcomer last year at the SEC Championship. It had to adjust to the competition quickly – and the benefits that come with it.

"I think it's the best conference in the country. There's not a bad team in it," Texas A&M head coach J.T. Higgins said. "When you go to the conference championship and you walk up and down the range, there's team after team in the top 25 and 30. Every team is quality, has great coaches and great leaders. It's just a great league."

The Aggies, the No. 10 team in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings, played to a fourth-place finish last year at the event, riding the momentum to a run at the National Championship. They just missed out on a match play berth in a four-team playoff.

"We were struggling last spring heading into our tournament right before the conference championship," Higgins said. "So we used the SEC Championship as a springboard. That's when we turned the corner and started playing better golf."

Higgins and the Aggies hope to do the same thing April 25-27 at Sea Island Golf Club in St. Simons Island, Ga. With two or the top three teams in Golfweek's rankings – Alabama and Georgia rank 1 and 3, respectively – and eight teams in the top 25, this year's SEC is competitive to say the least.

"In the Big 12, it wasn't near as deep," Higgins said. "It was still very difficult to win when you have Oklahoma State and Texas, but when you go to the SEC, there's legitimately 12 teams that feel like they might have a chance to win, and they are all really good.

"There's a lot more depth at the conference championship. It's like Tennessee proved last year – they finished dead last in the conference and (in the top 20) at the National Championship. That's a testament to how strong the league is."

The Aggies have seven top-five finishes this year, but have also struggled in some of their most competitive tournaments. The team finished ninth and 13th at the National Invitational Tournament and Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters, respectively.

With three players owning sub-73 scoring averages (Crancer, Greg Yates and Andrew Lister) and two players with a share of a win or better (Crancer and Yates), Texas A&M prides itself in its depth.

"I definitely think we're overlooked, because we might not have the names on our team like Alabama and Georgia. But we're just as solid as all of those guys put together," Crancer said. "We have a very solid team from top to bottom and I think we can compete with all of them."

Crancer believes that depth and his team's mental toughness could make Texas A&M a force to be reckoned with in a match-play scenario. But both Crancer and Higgins know the importance of getting hot. And they hope they're peaking at the right time.

"They look great," Higgins said of his team in practice. "We're playing our best golf of the year – especially with wedges and short game and off the tee. I think we can make a little run here."

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