After correctly picking Georgia State's victory at the Colonial Athletic Association championship, here is a look at the second wave of conference tournaments and who will be the teams and individuals to be victorious and earn bids to NCAA regionals.
Site: Saddle Creek GC, Copperopolis, Calif. (Par 72, 6,826 yards)
Dates: April 17-18 (For live scoring, check out Golfstat.)
Defending champion: Pepperdine; Joe Lanza, St. Mary’s
Field: Gonzaga, Loyola Marymount, No. 25 Pepperdine, Portland, St. Mary’s (Calif.), San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Clara.
Skinny: Perennial conference favorite Pepperdine has had an up-and-down spring season that saw them earn an impressive win at the Ashworth Invitational in February only to finish last out of 14 schools at the NIT in late March and 16th out of 17 teams at the Morris Williams two weeks ago. Needless to say, the Waves will have to get out of their funk if their to win their eighth straight conference championship, particularly with San Diego actually entering the tournament with a better team scoring average. Our crystal ball says that Pepperdine’s reign ends here as the Toreros make the NCAA regionals for the first time in school history. That said, expect a Pepperdine player to win medalist honors, with our nod going to senior Alex Coe.
Site: Eagle Creek CC, Orlando
Dates: April 17-19
Defending champion: Georgia State; Duncan Stewart, Jacksonville
Field: Belmont, Campbell, No. 10 East Tennessee State, Florida Atlantic, Gardner-Webb, Jacksonville, Lipscomb, Mercer, North Florida, Stetson
Skinny: While the conference loses its defending champion—Georgia State now in the Colonial Athletic Association—newcomer East Tennessee State jumps in for its first year and immediately claims the role as heavy favorite. The Bucs have won 20 conference titles in their history and while Belmont, Mercer, North Florida and Jacksonville should provide a mild challenge, ETSU is likely to become just the third team in A-Sun history to win the conference title in their first appearance. Don’t be at all surprised when ETSU junior Rhys Davies keeps Jacksonville’s Duncan Stewart from becoming the third player to win medalist honors in back to back years while also holding off Jacksonville’s Russell Knox.
Site: PGA GC, Port St. Lucie, Fla. (Par 72, 6.968 yards)
Dates: April 17-19
Defending champion: South Alabama; Patrick Sullivan, UALR
Field: Arkansas-Little Rock, Arkansas State, Denver, Louisiana-Lafayette, Middle Tennessee State, New Orleans, North Texas, South Alabama, Troy, Western Kentucky.
Skinny: The 2005 championship had arguably the best finish in all of men’s golf when South Alabama’s Johnny Caldwell hit a 9-iron to three feet on the final hole and made the birdie to help give Jaguars the title by one shot. Injury woes, however, will prevent South Alabama from willing the title again, opening the door for others. Five of the 10 teams in the field have won tournaments in 2005-06. When all is said and done, expect Denver to claim the title, with their dual punch of Charlie Soule (the conference’s stroke average leader at 70.52) and James Love (low round of the year: 62) battling for medalist honors. There, we’ll give the advantage to Soule, but barely.
Site:__ The Patriot Club, Ninety-Six, S.C.
Dates: April 17-19
Defending champion: Coastal Carolina; Zack Byrd, Coastal Carolina
Field: Birmingham-Southern, Charleston Southern, Coastal Carolina, High Point, Liberty, Radford, Winthrop.
Skinny: Golf’s equivalent of George Mason getting the NCAA men’s basketball final four seemed to occur a year ago when Coastal Carolina advance through regionals and play in the men’s NCAA championship at Caves Valley. This year, however, the Chanticleers have proved them belong mentioned among the top teams in the country, having been ranked in the top 25 for much of the 2005-06 season. Suffice it to say, they’ll make easy work of their Big South foes with the only real excitement expected to come from which Coastal Carolina player will claim the individual title. Odds are it will be junior Dustin Johnson, who already has three wins this year and nine top-20 performances.