Tigers To Face Tough Field and Course at NCAAs

Hot Springs, Va.--The Auburn men's golf team is peaking at the right time of year and the Tigers will try to continue their strong end of the season run at the 30-team NCAA Championship that runs Tuesday through Friday.

The Tigers and 29 other teams will tee off at the par-70, 6,679-yard Cascades Course at The Homestead playing their best golf of the 2003-2004 season.

After posting a single-round average of 296 and a tournament average of 886 through their first nine tournaments, the Tigers are averaging only 287 shots per round with a tournament average of 861.

Coach Mike Griffin's unranked squad will try to continue that strong play this week against a field that contains 17 of the Top 25 teams, including the top 11 teams in the country. He says he believes his Tigers will go into the nationals feeling good about themselves after playing very well against a tough field at the NCAA East Regional at Yale University on a challenging course.

"I think any of them would say very quickly that the confidence level has elevated," Griffin notes. "You still have to go out there on the golf course and put the results up, however. You still have to go out there and get it done.

"We were able to do well at Yale because Yale was a golf course that allowed us to play as well as a lot of teams," Griffin notes. "Where we are going to nationals is very similar. It is a short, crooked golf course that says you better hit fairways and you better hit greens. That is the kind of golf course where we have played well this year.

"The tougher the courses we seem to play pretty well in," Griffin adds. "We don't enter many birdie contests. There are some teams that may make 65-60 birdies a tournament and we just don't do that. A golf course that says par is a good number, then we certainly have a fighting chance."

Senior Jonathon Dismuke will lead the Tigers in their 13th NCAA Championship appearance. Dismuke will bring a 72.65 stroke average into the tournament. However, that is a season average and Dismuke has been even better over the Tigers' late season run, posting a 71.4 average.

Senior Jonathon Dismuke earned second team All-SEC honors.

Sophomore Stuart Moore, who hails form Gainesville, Ga., has been as hot as Dismuke over the past three tournaments, averaging 71.2 strokes per round.

Sophomore Andrew Medley, who brings in a 74.28 stroke average, junior Matthew Myers is shooting 75.59 per round and junior Will Claxton, who missed the first nine tournaments of the season with a back injury, carries a 73.75 stroke average.

One other advantage the Tigers could have is that they have seen this course once this season. Auburn finished 14th in a rain-shortened, two-day 15-team NCAA Preview, however, that was without the services of Claxton or Myers. Dismuke tied for 34th in the tournament with a two-day total of 147 and Stuart Moore shot 151 to tie for 55th place.

The Tigers' coach has fond memories of The Cascades Course because it is where his 1997 squad, led by current PGA Tour players Roland Thatcher and Jason Dufner, won the NCAA East Regional with a three-day total of 873.

With all of the positives for the Tigers heading into the tournament, Griffin says he couldn't be happier. "It feels very exciting," he explains. "A month ago, we didn't have much of a clue that this is what we would be doing this coming week. We all had our hopes, but I don't think any of us had any real inspiration that this was likely to happen. We felt like (to play in the NCAA East Regional) Yale was probably a long shot and now all of the sudden everything has come full circle."

Auburn will open first round play at 6 a.m. CDT on Tuesday from the number one tee and will be paired with Southern California and TCU. The Tigers will be paired with the same two teams on Wednesday and will tee off from the 10th hole at 11 a.m. CDT.

Following the first two days of competition the pairings for Thursday and Friday will be determined by scoring. Also following 54 holes of competition, the 30-team tournament field will be cut to the low 15 teams and six individuals.

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