There are three last conference clashes before the men's NCAA Division I Golf Committee announces the 81 teams and 18 individuals on Monday. Here's an inside look:
Dates: May 4-6
Defending champion: Kent State; Ryan Yip, Tommy Wiegand, Kent State
Field: Akron, Ball State, Bowling Green State, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Miami (Ohio), Northern Illinois, Ohio, Toledo
Skinny: Kent State coach Herb Page doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to teeing it up at the MAC Championship. “Our expectation as a program is to play for a championship,” said the Hall of Fame coach. “Four of our five players played pivotal roles last year in our winning the title. However, last year means nothing. Last week means nothing. We need to go out there this week and execute.” We’re betting the Golden Flashes don’t have a problem doing the latter, considering the fact they have won 15 MAC titles, including 11 since 1992. Last year’s co-champion, Ryan Yip, is in prime position to repeat as medalist, with Tommy Wiegand likely to do the same. The most likely non-Kent State player to contend will be Eastern Michigan’s Korey Mahoney. We’ll take Yip to win by two shots.
Dates: May 5-7
Defending champion: Xavier; Jason Kokrak, Xavier, Neal Grusczynski, Xavier
Field: Dayton, Duquesne, Fordham, George Washington, LaSalle, UNC-Charlotte, Rhode Island, Richmond, St. Bonaventure, St. Joseph’s, St. Louis, Temple, Xavier
Skinny: Officials hope to avoid the bad weather that forced last year’s event to be shortened to 27 holes, and Xavier is searching for a fifth A-10 crown and the fourth in six years. Yet while the Musketeers have history on their side, UNC-Charlotte has the best record of the 13 teams in the field, finishing first or second in six of its nine starts and will ultimately be the team raising the trophy come Sunday. Meanwhile, six of the top 10 finishers from last year’s tournament are also back in 2006, including co-medalist Jason Kokrak from Xavier. Charlotte junior Ray Sheedy, however, has had three top-three finishes this season and seems poised to close out the year on a high note with the A-10 individual title.
Dates: May 6-7
Defending champion: Central Connecticut State; Anthony Campanile, Monmouth
Field: Central Connecticut State, Fairleigh Dickinson, LIU-Brooklyn, Monmouth, Mount St. Mary’s, Quinnipiac, Robert Morris, Sacred Heart, St. Francis (Pa.), Wagner
Skinny: While you’re not going to find any teams that will win the NCAA Championship in this bunch, the conference clash could be among the most entertaining of any we’ve seen this year, with no team in the field ranked better than 232 (St. Francis) or worse than 280 (Wagner). Having won the title the previous year, I’ll give Central Connecticut State the nod to repeat in Florida. Individually, 2005 NEC player of the year Chris Cyr of Quinnipiac has won conference player of the week honors twice in the past three weeks and seems to be ready to win medalist honors; we say he holds off Monmouth’s Anthony Campanile by three shots.