The 2018 NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Regionals begin Monday with 81 teams fighting for 30 spots in the NCAA Championship. There are six regional sites, and the top five finishers from each earns a spot at nationals May 25-30 at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.
We know the top teams and a lot of the others expected to advance, but which additional squads in these fields hold the most intrigue?
Golfweek picks an interesting team not among the top few seeds in each regional and explains why:
Raleigh (N.C.) Regional
No. 8 seed Missouri (36th in Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings)
The Tigers may be coming off a 14th-place showing at the SEC Championship, but they won three times this season and boast one of the country’s best players. Hayden Buckley won four times this season while posting a 69.5 scoring average in 30 rounds. The Tigers have made just two NCAA Championships since 1987. But Missouri is the top-ranked No. 8 seed and one of two No. 8 seeds ranked inside the top 40.
Bryan (Texas) Regional
No. 6 Ole Miss (31)
Two words: Braden Thornberry. The junior is the defending NCAA individual champion and a four-time winner this season. He is one of the best players in college golf and led the Rebels in nine of 11 events this season. Ole Miss might have won only once this season and doesn’t have another player with a scoring average below 73, but it does have potential behind Thornberry. Cecil Wegener lost in a playoff at the SEC Championship and has three top-10s this season, while Kerry Sweeney and Josh Seiple each played in the NCAA Championship last year.
Columbus (Ohio) Regional
No. 7 Penn State (34)
The Nittany Lions have proved this season they can compete on the difficult Scarlet Course: They finished third there in the Robert Kepler Intercollegiate last month. Penn State followed with a fourth-place showing at the Big Ten Championship. Cole Miller and Ryan Davis, two of the team’s top three players in terms of scoring average, recently made it through local qualifying for the U.S. Open. Miller medaled at last year’s NCAA regional in Sammamish, Wash., to lead Penn State to its first NCAA Championship since 2010.
Kissimmee (Fla.) Regional
No. 10 UCF (58)
The Knights traveled to College Grove, Tenn., last spring and won a regional. This year they won’t have to travel nearly as far, and they return their top four players from last season’s postseason roster. UCF won twice this season before finishing third at the AAC Championship. Two players, Bobby Bai and Juuso Kahlos, won individual titles and combined for six top-10s. Kyler Tate led the team with four top-10s. Add in Donnie Trosper, who missed out on making the postseason lineup last spring, and this year’s regional team has the potential to be better than last year’s.
Norman (Okla.) Regional
No. 6 Pepperdine (25)
This Waves can go low behind a trio of talented players: Sahith Theegala, Clay Feagler and Josh McCarthy, who combined for three wins and 16 top-10s this season. Pepperdine won just once, though, before winning the West Coast Conference Championship by 25 shots. The Waves are coming off their best NCAA Championship finish since 2004 last season, when they finished 13th.
Stockton (Calif.) Regional
No. 8 Kansas (42)
The Jayhawks are competing in their third straight NCAA regional. What stands out with this team is its balance. Andy Spencer is the team’s top player with three top-5s, but five other players have finished T-11 or better at one point this season, including Daniel Sutton and Daniel Hudson, each of whom finished in the top 3 once this season. Charlie Hillier, the team’s leader in scoring average (70), has a best finish of T-6. Kansas won just once this season but looked good at Big 12s, where it finished sixth despite opening in 301. The Jayhawks also tied Oklahoma for the best final round in the 72-hole event. Gwk