Arkansas Sends Young Team To SEC Championships

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas men's golf coach Mike Ketcham is taking a very young but talented quintet to the Southeastern Conference Men's Golf Championships this weekend at Sea Island, Ga.

The 54-hole tournament runs from today through Sunday.

"Even though we have two freshmen and three sophomores playing, I'm excited about our chances in this tournament," Ketcham said.

The Razorbacks got off to a slow start this spring, ranking just 49th nationally, before posting a second-place finish in the NIT Invitational Tournament at Tucson, Ariz., late last month.

Matt Bortis, a UA sophomore from Springfield, Mo., had rounds of 69-67-68 for a 12-under-par total of 204 to take first place individually at Tucson.

Bortis will join fellow sophomore Beau Glover of Sherwood and freshmen Scotty Campbell of Conway, Barrett Lais of Joplin, Mo., and Eric Shriver of Cary, N.C., at the SEC Tournament.

Arkansas did well in the league tournament in the early years after entering the SEC in 1992, finishing third, second, fourth, first and third in its first five tries under former coach Bill Woodley.

Since then, however, the picture has not been as pretty. The Hogs placed eighth in 1997, ninth in 1998, 11th in 1999 and 2000 and 10th in 2001, after which Woodley was fired.

In Ketcham's first three seasons as UA coach, the Razorbacks have finished sixth, seventh and ninth in the SEC Championships. But the Hogs returned to the NCAA Championships in 2003 for the first time since 1999, finishing 27th among 30 teams, and made it to the NCAA Central Regionals last year, placing 17th among 27 teams.

Ketcham has recruited well and has more good players on the way.

Besides their second-place showing in Tucson, the Hogs also notched a runner-up finish in the University Club Intercollegiate at Baton Rouge, La., last October, and took fifth in the TaylorMade Intercollegiate at Kona, Hawaii, in February.

Bortis has led the team individually in four of nine tournaments this season, while Campbell led once and tied with Glover for the best total another time. Schriver and freshmen Jason Turner of Little Rock and Will Osborne of Wichita Falls, Texas, led Arkansas in the other three events.

"We lost four seniors who played a significant amount last year," Ketcham said. "We've had to rely on Bortis a lot, not only from a scoring standpoint but also from a leadership role. Matt played a lot last summer on a national level and has really improved his game."

Besides his win at Tucson, Bortis finished ninth at Baton Rouge, and 11th in the Hall of Fame Invitational in Houston, Texas. His stroke average of 72.6 is best on the team.

Campbell has a 73.3 average, followed by Schriver at 74.6, Lais at 74.8 and Lais at 77.0.

Bortis finished 31st at the SEC Championships last year, and 45th at the NCAA Central Regionals.

Georgia has ranked as high as second this season and is a favorite along with Auburn.

Vanderbilt features sophomore Luke List, the U.S. amateur runner-up who made the cut at the Masters last week and impressed fans with his driving distance and composure.

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