The field for the 2011 NCAA Men’s Golf Championships would probably be considered “traditional” by most. Of the 30 programs set to travel to Stillwater, Okla., May 31-June 5, 28 of them have participated in at least 10 NCAA finals.
Host Oklahoma State makes an incredible 65th straight appearance. Southern California will be making a 52nd appearance while Arizona State (49), Florida (48) and Georgia (42) have been regulars. Half of the field has participated at least 20 times.
The newbies? Kennesaw State and Colorado State.
Colorado State last played in the NCAA finals in 1999. It was the program’s only appearance until a solid three days at the Colorado Region last week. The Rams, under 12th-year head coach Jamie Bermel, shot a final round 9-under-par 279 and finished second to No. 1 Oklahoma State and an on-again, off-again, weather-delayed 54 holes of golf.
“We played an absolute great round of golf under the toughest conditions,” said Bermel. “I am so proud of the guys and the effort they gave this week. It was a tough week of golf with the weather and the delays and they played like champions all week. I think coach Guetz did an awesome job getting them prepared this week. He has been on the Rams’ team for only about six weeks, but his efforts and his help have definitely paid huge dividends.”
The Guetz the head coach speaks of is Brian Guetz, a two-time Colorado Open champion and lettermen at Oklahoma State, who will certainly provide some local knowledge of the difficult Karsten Creek Golf Club.
2011 will also mark Bermel’s first trip to the NCAA finals since the 1996-97 campaign when he took Drake University to the tournament. Future Master’s champion Zach Johnson led that team.
The Rams shot just two rounds in the 60s all week, both coming from Zakhai Brown who opened the tournament at 65. After a disastrous 82 on Day 2, Brown led the Rams on Day 3 with a 69. Ryan Peterson, the squad’s lone senior, shot a final round 74 and was not part of the final round scoring foursome. For the week, however, Peterson tied for 14th with teammates Mike Sorenson and Kory Harrell at 215. Brown tied for 24th at 216.
Kennesaw State, located a half hour from Atlanta, was not founded until 1963. Under first-year coach Jay Mosely, the Owls capped a strong regular season that included four wins with a victory at the Atlantic Sun Championship, Apr. 20 with junior Jeff Karlsson earning medalist.
At the Florida Region the Owls opened a 2-over 290 but bounced back with rounds of 281 and 282 to finish at 11-under, just a shot out of second behind 2010 NCAA champion Augusta State and seven shots behind Florida. Karlsson, a native of Sweden, continued his strong play with rounds of 73-69-67 for a 7-under total and good for a tie for sixth just three shots behind medalist Jace Long of Missouri, who fired a final round 10-under 62.
“We are really looking forward to going to nationals,” said Moseley, an All-American at Auburn during his playing days. “It will be fun to go out and compete in the best tournament in college golf. It’s a great thing to be a part of, but we are going for more than just to compete. We are looking to win a national championship.”
When KSU tees it up May 31 it will be the first time in school history the program has competed with college golf’s best in the last tournament of the season.
Need to Know
• UCLA’s Peter Cantlay, a sophomore, is the top-ranked golfer according to Golfweek heading into the championships. Cantlay earned medalist honors at the San Diego Region by six strokes, shooting 13-under for the week. Oklahoma State enters next week with three golfers among the top 12 – Peter Uihlein (2), Kevin Tway (3) and Morgan Hoffman (12). Tway was medalist at the Colorado Region.
• Georgia Tech has three players rankead among the top 14 – Kyle Scott (8), JT Griffin (11) and James White (14).
• Missouri’s Jace Long shot 62 in the final round of the Florida Region to qualify for the finals. The sophomore returned to Missouri with the team, did some laundry, and headed to Cabot, Arkansas for a USGA Public Links Sectional qualifier on Tuesday. Cabot’s Nicklaus Benton finished at 139 to earn the qualifying spot with Long finishing two shots back in second. He will be the first alternate. “When I was putting together my schedule I knew it was going to be a busy couple of weeks,” said Long. “But it’s like that every year. There’s a lot of golf going on.”
• Arizona State’s Scott Pinckney won a qualifier in San Antonio. Middle Tennessee State’s Jason Millard, like Long earned an individual spot for Stillwater. He finished second at a Nashville qualifier and moves on to the Public Links at the end of June.
• In case you were wondering, Karsten Creek, located in Central Oklahoma, did not suffer any damage during the tornado outbreak of Tuesday. Four people were killed in Canadian County, about 90 miles southwest from Stillwater, but minimal damage was sustained in and around Payne County.
• NCAA pairings were released Wednesday for the first two rounds of stroke play. Southern California, Arkansas and Tennessee tee off at 7 a.m. (CST) on the par-5 first hole with San Diego State, North Carolina State and Oklahoma going off on the par-4 10th.
• Oklahoma State, Alabama and UCLA tee off at 12:20 on No. 10 on Day 1. Georgia Tech, Florida and Augusta State go off No. 1 at 12:40