Conferences Calls—Men, first edition
The college postseason is upon us, and with it we'll get a chance to see schools from across the country try to earn their way into the NCAA regionals by winning their conference championships. In golf, as is the case in most sports, schools that win their conference receive automatic bids to regionals, essentially giving all programs a crack at NCAA glory.
With all that's on the line we'll take a insider look at all the conference championships over the next two-plus weeks, highlighting the team and individual favorites in each. As the schedule plays out, we'll keep you up to speed with updates every few days.
Without further ado, here's a look at the first wave of conference tournaments.
Site: Pinehurst (N.C.) Resort, No. 6
Dates: April 14-16
Defending champion: UNC-Wilmington; Brian Joyce, UNC-Wilmington
Field: Delaware, Drexel, George Mason, No. 8 Georgia State, Hofstra, James Madison, UNC-Wilmington, Old Dominion, Towson, VCU, William & Mary
Skinny: Just as on the women’s side, the men’s teams face the challenge of Georgia State joining the CAA this year. The Panthers have been ranked in the top 10 nationally since late fall and with by far the deepest team among the 11 squads competing, should cruise to the team title. While any of Georgia State’s starting five can get hot and win individually, freshman Mark Haastrup is coming off three top-10s in his last three starts and sports the best stroke average (71.92) on the team, so give him the nod for medalist honors.
Dates: April 16-18 (For live scoring, check out Golfstat)
Defending champion: East Tennessee State; Rhys Davies, East Tennessee State
Field: Appalachian State, College of Charleston, Davidson, Elon, Furman, Georgia Southern, UNC Greensboro, UT Chattanooga, Western Carolina, Wofford
Skinny: With East Tennessee State (winner of 12 of the last 17 SoCon titles) moving on to the Atlantic Sun, the field has no odds-on favorite. Georgia Southern’s solid squad will more than likely vie with Furman for top honors. Western Carolina’s Matt Cook has two victories and six top-fives this season; with a 71.65 average he’ll come through and win the individual title by holding off Georgia Southern’s __Jon David Kennedy __ and Bryan Jones.
Dates: April 16-18
Defending champion: Jackson State; Carl Soderstrom, Jackson State
Skinny: Eddie Payton’s Jackson State men are as solid as his women’s squad, making them the heavy favorites to win the SWAC title. Junior Raul Cortes, a Mexico City native, won the rain-shortened Pizza Hut/BellSouth Invitational at the Dancing Rabbit course in February, making him a prime candidate to become the medalist.
Dates: April 16-19
Defending champion: Texas-Arlington; Jordan Krantz, Texas-Arlington
Field: Lamar, Louisiana-Monroe, McNeese State, Nicholls State, Sam Houston State, Southeastern Louisiana, Stephen F. Austin, Texas-Arlington, Texas-San Antonio, Texas A&M Corpus Christi, Texas State
Skinny: It seems every week a different Lamar player is going ridiculously low and winning a golf tournament (Casey Clendenon, Justin Harding, Andrew Landry and Oliver Bekker) or propelling the Cardinals to a team title. Consider that in Lamar’s last five tournaments, All-American candidate Dawie Van der walt has only one top-15 showing, yet the team has won four of the five starts. Suffice it to say, any of the Lamar starting five has a shot at the individual title, with freshman Bekker, a native of Stellenbosch, South Africa, playing the best entering the championship.