Five of the 14 teams at Auburn's regional are ranked in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings in No. 1 Alabama, No. 12 Virginia Tech, No. 17 Texas, No. 22 New Mexico and No. 25 Auburn. The remaining teams are Alabama State, BYU, UC-Davis, Colorado, Kennesaw State, Louisville, UNCG, St. John's and Sam Houston State. Clinard said that makes for a tough challenge for his team as they try to qualify for the NCAA Championships.
"That's one thing I can tell the public, if they want to come out and watch the future PGA Tour players we have the last two national champions in town for our region," Clinard said. "I don't know if that's good or bad, but they are here in Texas and Alabama. It's a formidable challenge for us. You can throw home golf course out the window because there are going to be a lot of great players out here. Right now the course is playing pretty fast so we'll have to adapt to that. We're used to playing it when it's a little more softer and slower."
Niclas Carlsson is the senior leader and top player for the Tigers.
Auburn is led by senior Niclas Carlsson and freshman Matt Gilchrest, both of which were named Second Team All-SEC. Carlsson has a 71.03 stroke average and Gilchrest a 71.50 stroke average, both of which are currently among the top 10 scoring averages among SEC players. Rounding out the Tigers' fivesome are Jake Mondy, Will Long and Dan Stringfellow. Clinard said his team is playing well after the strong spring and he's looking for big things out of them this weekend.
"We had a great spring," Clinard said. "We had three wins and a second. We've had two individual champions with Nic winning the Hootie and Matt Gilchrist winning up in Kentucky. Nic is a big-time player. He's our leader and has a great work ethic. There is a lot of maturity about his game and about him as a person. Our younger guys, Matt Gilchrist and Will Long, are two freshmen that have stepped in and played fantastic for us.
"I think this spring they are both under a 71.38 strong average, which is phenomenal for freshmen and young guys. That bodes well for the future. Nic is the only player in our starting five that we lose this year. Obviously you have Jake Mondy who is a veteran. He played in the regionals and national championship last year. You have Dan Stringfellow and other guys that are young talents just coming into their own right now."
Teams will have their practice rounds on Wednesday's to get a feel for the course before the real action begins. Thursday's and Friday's rounds begin at 8 a.m. from the first and 10th tees while Saturday's final round begins at 7:30 a.m., with the top three teams starting play at 8:40 a.m. on the first tee. The top five teams advance to the NCAA Championship, which will be played May 23-28 at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Wichita, Kan.
"It's exciting to host," Clinard said. "There has been a lot of work put into it and a lot of effort from our administration and from the superintendent and owners here at the AU Club. We are very appreciative of that. It's very exciting for the players and for Coach Osteen and myself and our families and fans. We look forward to hopefully having a pretty decent crowd out here cheering the guys on."