How two teams punched NCAA Championship tickets seven months in advance

2019 NCAA Championship

How two teams punched NCAA Championship tickets seven months in advance

College

How two teams punched NCAA Championship tickets seven months in advance

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Most college teams start their season with similar goals: win the conference title and advance to the NCAA Championship to compete for a national title.

Just six weeks into the 2019-20 season, objective complete for the St. Thomas men’s and Wisconsin-Whitewater women’s golf teams.

Most conferences hold their tournaments at the end of the season in the Spring just before the national championship. Because the weather in the Midwest in the early Spring isn’t conducive to championship golf, St. Thomas’ Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference host their tournaments in the Fall.

Both teams won their respective conference titles last week, punching their ticket to the NCAA Championship seven months in advance. So, now what?

The University of St. Thomas after winning the 2019 MIAC Championship. (Photo: B.J. Pickard, MIAC office)

“We’re not going to just come down here for the fun of it and be on vacation or something like that,” said St. Thomas head coach Scott Proshek at the Golfweek Division III Fall Invitational on Sunday. “Being down here we’re probably able to play a little bit more relaxed but I think we got a little bit different of a goal and that is to compete with the top teams in the nation and this gives us another opportunity to do that.”

Golfweek Div. III Fall Invitational

Men: Team leaderboard | Individual leaderboard
Women: Team leaderboard | Individual leaderboard
Round 1: History tied while Emory, Carnegie Mellon lead

The event at Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort features one of the most competitive fields in Div. III golf, with 10 of the 18 men’s teams and nine of the 18 women’s teams ranked inside the nation’s top 25.

Proshek, a 1979 St. Thomas graduate, is in his 10th year coaching the Tommies, who have won the last three MIAC titles and have made the NCAA Championship in seven of the last nine years.

“Obviously it’s a big burden off our back,” Proshek said of the early conference tournament, which he sees as a big advantage.

While it may be an advantage now, the elements of the early Spring in St. Paul, Minnesota, is no benefit. The Golfweek Div. III Fall Invitational will be the last tournament of the year for the Tommies, and then comes a long winter, followed by a unique Spring season leading up to the national championship. The last two Spring seasons have been rough on the team, but despite the poor conditions and irregular schedule, the goal remains the same: stay competitive and gear up for May.

“We don’t know any other way because our conference championship is always in the Fall,” explained Proshek, “and each year each year is just a little bit different. But when you win (the conference tournament), I know as coach I can sleep a lot better all winter long.”

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