Men's Golf Headed For NCAA Championships

Auburn will play in the NCAA Men's Golf Championships this weekend at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Kansas.

Auburn, Ala.--Coach Nick Clinard and the Auburn men's golf team didn't have much time to process last weekend's third-place finish at regionals before prep work began for the NCAA Championships to be held at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan. beginning this Friday.

Working on their games to get ready for the ultimate challenge in college golf, Clinard said this is what the players work all year for and now it's time to grind.

"It is a quick turnaround," Clinard said. "We took the day off on Sunday. We did something fun as a team. We had a good time. Monday we were back practicing. We practiced in the morning and had lunch and were back practicing in the afternoon. We practiced Tuesday and played a little golf in the afternoon. We'll take off Wednesday and tee it up Thursday and start our preparation."

Auburn is playing in the NCAA Championships for the third straight season and the 19th time overall. Auburn tied for 15th at the 2012 championships at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles and tied for 13th at the 2013 championships at Capital City Club in Atlanta.

This year's course will be an especially difficult challenge for the Tigers and the rest of the 30 teams that will hit the links this weekend. Last hosting a major championship in 2006 (U.S. Senior Open), Prairie Dunes is a difficult course and only saw 11 players finish under par that week. Allen Doyle was the winner that week at eight-under par, a player that hit the ball low and was able to play in the wind. Clinard said that will be a key for his team this week as they get ready for play and that includes changing some equipment to help out as much as possible.

"We don't know a lot about it," Clinard said. "We have talked to a few people already and know it's more Scottish and Irish-type links golf. They have a virtual tour so we've done our homework on that. The guys are working on flighting their ball on the range because it's going to probably be throwing 30 or 40 MPH.

"Some of the guys are tinkering with their equipment so you get get the flight of the ball down without a lot of spin," he added. "You don't want the ball floating up in the air with a lot of spin on it. The other thing is when we get there for the practice round we'll spend a lot of time on the greens seeing how the ball reacts and how it's spinning. We want to see what the normal winds are and then see what the forecast is."

Auburn's top finisher at the regional, senior Niclas Carlsson has led Auburn all season long and will be counted on this week to do the same. An All-SEC Second Team selection, he finished tied for seventh at the NCAA Auburn Regional and takes a 71.08 stroke average into the national championships.

"He has played in the regionals the last three years and the national championships the last two years," Clinard said. "He can let those young guys know what to expect, kind of all the outside influences once you get there."

Will Long had a big week for the Tigers in regional play

Freshman Will Long, playing in the four spot, shot even-par at the NCAA Auburn Regional to tie for 11th. That included a double eagle on the par-five 16th hole that played a big part in the Tigers' final round surge to qualify. Sophomore Jake Mondy shot plus-6 to finish 27th, freshman Matt Gilchrest shot plus-13 to tie for 52nd and junior Daniel Stringfellow shot plus-18 to finish tied for 62nd as only 10 players shot below par at the regional.

For all but Mondy it was their first experience playing in NCAA competition. Now with that behind them Clinard said the freshmen and team as a whole should be ready for what they'll face.

"I think it helps a lot," Clinard said. "Both of them have played every tournament this spring outside of when Matt was sick. He's an All-SEC player and Will has played like an All-SEC player this spring. With their experience level they're really not freshmen anymore. They are a big part of the team and the program moving forward. We're glad they are in the lineup this week."

Auburn will play its practice round on Thursday at 9 a.m, starting on the 13th tee. The team will then be paired with UCLA and Southern Cal for Friday's and Saturday's rounds. Auburn's tee time on Friday is 7:20 a.m. starting on the 10th tee while the tee time on Saturday will be 12:40 p.m. on the first tee. With UCLA ranked 20th in the country, Auburn 21st and USC 23rd, the teams should be evenly matched and Clinard said the team is excited about playing with the two West Coast rivals and is just focused on getting off to a good start on Friday.

"It's great," Clinard said. "I think the guys are playing with somebody different. They'll get a little West Coast flavor. They are both good programs with great coaches, and we got great tee times too. I was excited about getting to play early in the first round. You never know, but typically you would think 7:20 a.m. is better than anything out there because of the wind. Then we'll get the first tee times off in the second wave on Friday.

"We need to get off to a better start and get some momentum going," he added. "Golf is a game of momentum just like most sports are. If we can get off to a good start the first five or six holes and get everything calmed down I think we will be fine."

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