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KISSIMMEE, Fla. – It didn’t look good heading into Monday.
Forecasts of rain and thunderstorms for May 14-16 – all three days of the NCAA Kissimmee Regional – had some wondering if enough holes could be finished for the event to count. At least 36 holes need to be completed for the results from the tournament to officially decide which five teams from the site advance to the NCAA Championship.
If just 18 holes could be finished? Matters would then turn to the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Committee, which would simply pick the five teams from the regional to advance through. Likely, those picks would largely go off rankings, although performance over 18 holes at regionals could factor in.
Prior to the opening round, Bryce Wallor – head coach of host UCF, the No. 10 seed – noted to his team that a really hot 18 holes might be needed for that very consideration.
“I told them today, we need to go out and put the pedal down just in case someone wants to pull up and say, ‘Hey, who do we choose?'” Wallor said. “If you put 19 under up (in the opening round), what are they going to say to you?”
Thankfully, it seems that’s just a hypothetical now.
UCF did indeed get out to a hot start, ending the first day at Reunion Resort’s Watson Course at 12 under and tied for the lead with second-seeded Florida. But that 18-hole consideration likely is no longer needed.
Despite the dismal forecast, the entire first round was completed Monday, with just a roughly 70-minute delay due to heavy rain interrupting action in the morning. While rain was present in periods the remainder of the day, no more stoppages occurred. Regional play must conclude by Wednesday, which means 18 more holes at Reunion need to be completed in the next two days for the top-five finishers at the tournament to automatically move on to the NCAA Championship.
There are no guarantees, as rain and afternoon thunderstorms are still in the forecast for Tuesday. And Wednesday brings a prediction of more rain and scattered thunderstorms in the morning becoming more widespread in the afternoon.
If the Monday luck holds, though, all 54 holes may get done after all. And getting in at least 36 does still seems very likely.
(Side note: If darkness descends Wednesday with players still mid-round, scores will be scrapped for that round and revert back.)
Yet, that still leaves coaches having to think a bit more about strategy going into the final two days.
Do you assume the tournament will indeed go 54 holes? Or should you consider it may be shortened to 36?
The answer differs depending on a team’s position. For squads outside the top-five cut at the moment, there’s more urgency than usual to move inside the top five through 36 holes.
After all, what if an optimist’s view of the forecast is wrong and the second 18 turns out to be the final round? Then those teams that didn’t battle hard to jump into the top five on Day 2 may see their seasons end right then and there.
Jacksonville State, which sits eighth and three strokes back of the cut, is taking the tact of bringing the fight hard on Tuesday.
“What I’m going to tell the guys (is) if we get 36 (holes) in, that may be all you get in,” said James Hobbs, Jacksonville State’s head coach. “So it’s important for us to have a really good day tomorrow, as tomorrow may be our last day.”
On the other side, Wallor still is looking at this being a 54-hole tournament. For the teams in position to advance, relaxing and thinking only 18 holes remain rather than 36 would be dangerous.
Whatever happens, weather will always be unpredictable – as Monday showed.
So while finishing 54 holes, or even 36, is no guarantee at the moment, teams can’t let the uncertainty gather too much in their heads.
“The thing about the weather is, I learned years ago, when you don’t have any control over it, you don’t have any control over it,” Hobbs said. “So you just take what the weather’s going to be.”