Auburn, Ala.--For the seventh consecutive year and 17th in the last 19 seasons, the Auburn men's golf team earned a berth in a NCAA Men's Golf regional. Ranked as the 11th seed in the 27-team NCAA East Regional to be played at The Golf Club of Georgia in Alpharetta, Ga., May 17-19, Auburn will have to contend with nine of the nation's top 25 teams.
Coming off a strong showing in the SEC Championships two weeks ago, Auburn will have to deal with No. 1 Georgia, No. 7 Florida, No. 10 Georgia Tech, No. 11 Clemson, No. 12 Coastal Carolina, No. 20 Charlotte, No. 23 North Carolina, No. 24 Duke and No. 25 Florida State in the 27-team field along with Ole Miss, UAB, Virginia Tech and Jacksonville State among the remaining teams. Coach Mike Griffin says that after taking a look at the entire 81-team field in three regionals, things are divided up pretty evenly across the country but he's glad his team gets to stay close to home and play in Atlanta.
"I think the committee did a pretty good job," Griffin says. "Having been on that committee before I know it's a tough job under the circumstances…five strong teams were shipped to the West and the Central out of the East and that shows the East had a very good year. I'm obviously happy a lot of that competition got shipped out because there are some awfully good teams in the South this year. I was very pleased that we're in number one, and that we've had a hour and a half drive up the road and we don't have to get on an airplane at the Atlanta airport. Hopefully we can play our best and advance out and get to the championships again. It would put another feather in our cap to be able to advance out and fight for the national championship later this year."
Auburn is led by sophomore All-SEC Glenn Northcutt , who has a 72.61 stroke average, two-time junior All-SEC Patton Kizzire (72.97), junior Jamie Bowen (74.06), junior Gordon Strother (74.10), junior Jay Moseley (74.26) and senior Andrew Medley (74.85). Kizzire is coming off a dominating performance at the SEC's when he won the individual title. Griffin says that the strong play the last time out has his team feeling good heading into regional play.
"I think we certainly played one of our best if not our best tournament of the year in the SEC, which is what we try to do each year," Griffin says. "We try to peak at the right time. I'm awful proud of Patton for stepping up and winning the individual title. That has to help his confidence level and it gives the team a good feel for the fact that now we have another player fully capable of contending for and winning tournaments each week…it was fun watching him play this last tournament."
The East Regional teams in order of seeding include No. 1 Georgia, No. 11 Clemson, No. 7 Florida, No. 12 Coastal Carolina, No. 10 Georgia Tech, Georgia State, No. 20 Charlotte, No. 23 North Carolina, No. 25 Florida State, No. 24 Duke, Auburn, Ole Miss, Chattanooga, UAB, Central Florida, Virginia Tech, Penn State, Old Dominion, Jacksonville State and Louisiana-Lafayette to round out the top 20. St. John's is the 21st-seed followed by Eastern Michigan, Maryland, Longwood, Rhode Island, Hartford and Boston College.
The top 10 teams and two individuals not on those teams qualify for the 110th NCAA Men's Golf Championship at the Golden Horseshoe in Williamsburg, Va., May 30-June 2.
Eight SEC teams qualified for the Regionals, including No. 1 Georgia, No. 7 Florida, Auburn and Ole Miss in the East at The Golf Club of Georgia in Alpharetta, Ga.; No. 4 Alabama and No. 17 Tennessee in the Central at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill.; and South Carolina and Vanderbilt in the West at Karsten Golf Course in Tempe, Ariz.
On the women's side, Coach Kim Evans' women's team is ranked fifth in the country and is the third seed in the East Regional at The University Club in Baton Rouge, La. to be played May 10-12. It is the 14th regional appearance in school history and the Tigers have advanced to the NCAA Championships in 10 of the last 11 years. Evans says the team is excited about the opportunity to play at a location and against competition they are familiar with.
"We feel like the course matches our game really well," Evans says. "The girls are familiar with it and it's almost like a home-course advantage for us. It is fairly generous off the tee, so it comes down to your short game. We have the same type of greens here in Auburn, so we will have the chance to practice on those. It's going to be a good place for us to be."