Men's Golfers Look to Be The Best In the West

Palo Alto, Calif.--The sixth-ranked Auburn men's golf team will begin play Thursday in the NCAA West Regional at the par-70, 6,742-yard Stanford University Golf Course along with ten of the nation's Top 25 teams in the field as they try to qualify for the NCAA Championship.

The list of competitors the Tigers will face is a who's who of western golf powerhouses such as fourth-ranked UNLV and fifth-ranked New Mexico as well as #14 Arizona State, #17 USC and #18 UCLA.

For the regional Auburn's lineup includes senior All-American Lee Williams, who has a 72.03 stroke average, in the No. 1 position. Senior All-SEC Tyler McKeever (73.09) occupies the No. 2 slot followed by junior All-SEC Stuart Moore (72.72), freshman All-SEC Patton Kizzire (72.33) and senior Matthew Myers (73.20), who led the Tigers by finishing 13th in The Maxwell Intercollegiate last weekend.

Kizzire missed part of the season with mononucleosis, but is playing well now. With the team now back to the original lineup this season head coach Mike Griffin says that his group has a lot of confidence that it can get the job done this weekend even though the Tigers didn't perform well in last weekend's seventh-place finish at The Maxwell.

"One reason we go to The Maxwell is to find out where our game is since we've been off for a month since the SEC," Griffin says. "We hit some good shots, but we didn't follow everything up particularly well.

"Those who didn't hit the ball particularly well their short game was working. We had kind of a combination, but it sorted out our games and we know where we are right now. I feel like this is what this group of young men has been working for all year long. For several of them this is what they've been working their whole lives for to get to this point. We're in postseason play and the championships begin this week. It's time to move into it and get after it."

Lee Williams is one of three seniors on the bags for the Tigers this weekend.

The West Regional teams in order of seeding include UNLV, New Mexico, Auburn, Arizona State, UCLA, Arizona, #12 BYU, #20 South Carolina, Southern California, Washington, LSU, No. 25 Pepperdine, San Diego State, UC-Riverside, St. Mary's (Calif.), host Stanford, Texas-Arlington, Colorado State, Cal Poly and Fresno State to round out the top 20 seeded teams. Oregon is the 21st-seed followed by Denver, South Alabama, Illinois State, Samford, Princeton and Central Connecticut State.

There is a definite West Coast flavor to the regional and Griffin says that gives some teams an advantage with the course the home to a Pac 10 school in Stanford, but he says his team fits well with the golf course having seen it several times in the past.

"The golf course that I recall, we played out here several times in the late '80s and early '90s, we brought teams out here to play in tournaments hosted by Stanford," Griffin says. "It's a quality golf course, really a great golf course. It's fun to play. It's got a lot of challenging holes on the golf course. I have heard they have done some things over the years to change the golf course, but if it's still the same golf course it's going to be a real good test of golf. Our team has tended to play tough golf courses well over the years.

"I would think that if the golf course is set up real good and the rough is up and there is a premium on hitting the ball where you're looking and if this golf course plays very difficult then our chances obviously increase. If it gets into a birdie-fest then we'll have to make putts like everyone else."

The Tigers are making their sixth consecutive regional appearance and 15th overall in the last 17 years. It is the first time Auburn has played in a regional other than the East. The top 10 teams and two individuals not on those teams qualify for the 108th NCAA Men's Golf Championship at the Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Md., June 1-June 4.

Following Wednesday's practice round, Auburn will begin first round play Thursday off the No. 1 tee at 1:15 pm Central with UNLV and New Mexico. The same three teams will be paired in Friday's second round and will tee off the 10th tee at 9:12 am Central. Live-scoring of the NCAA East, Central and West Regionals can be followed at www.golfstat.com.


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