NCAA men's golf: Epic shootout expected for final day at Athens Regional

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NCAA men's golf: Epic shootout expected for final day at Athens Regional

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NCAA men's golf: Epic shootout expected for final day at Athens Regional

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Isaiah Jackson pulled up his rangefinder to get a yardage on his first hole of competition at the NCAA Athens Regional and saw that his device was in slope mode. He reported the incident to the nearest rules official and was given a two-stroke penalty, posting a triple-bogey seven on No. 10.

Memphis coach Blake Smart couldn’t be prouder of Jackson for doing the right thing. He also hopes those two strokes won’t matter come Wednesday.

“If we’re going to come out of this thing successful,” said Smart of the junior from Golden, Miss., “he’s a huge cog to that. … He can go. He’s a big-time player.”

The Memphis men’s golf team for the 2018-19 season. (Courtesy: @MemphisMGolf)

Wednesday at the University of Georgia Golf Course should feature an epic shootout among a slew of non-Power Five conference teams for the last two qualifying spots. Georgia leads at home, but the focus will be on Liberty at 14 over in fourth place and the four teams that currently hold a share of fifth – Memphis, SMU, Tennessee and Nevada.

Also in the hunt are Campbell, two shots outside of the cutline, and Kentucky, three shots back.

LIVE BLOG: NCAA men’s regional action
SCORES:
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“The parity in college golf on the men’s side is just ridiculous right now,” said Smart, who grew up about an hour from Athens.

The top five teams from the Athens region will advance to the NCAA Championship, held May 24-29 in Fayetteville, Ark.

Memphis, one of the hottest teams coming into Athens, claimed a 12-shot victory at the American Athletic Conference Championship to nab an automatic berth.

“Winning is contagious, and it’s exciting and I think it gives you a feeling of belonging,” said Smart.

Trusting the game plan and being disciplined paid off at Innisbrook, where Memphis took the AAC title for the first time since 2012 and it will do the same in Athens, where only two teams are under par.

Senior Bradley Bawden is on pace to set a set a single-season scoring record at Memphis, carrying a 71.5 average into regionals. Smart says he’s particularly strong at getting a lot out of his “B” and “C” game. A quiet player who’s committed to short game, Smart is confident that Bawden will deliver on Wednesday.

It will take a total team effort.

Chip shots

Host Georgia leads the field at 4-under 564. Duke is the only other team under par at 3 under. Two Bulldogs – Spencer Ralston and Davis Thompson – lead the individual race at 4-under 138. “We just want to play solid and take care of what we can take care of and not worry about what else anybody else is doing,” Georgia head coach Chris Haack said in a release. “On any given hole, things can go haywire and all a sudden, 2-3-4 guys make big numbers. It can change the leaderboard quite drastically, so it’s certainly always in the back of my mind. It might not be in the back of theirs, but it’s always in the back of my mind.” … Among those playing as individuals this week, Billy Tom Sargent of Western Kentucky sits alone in sixth at 140. Only one individual not a qualifying team will advance to Arkansas.

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