Tigers Aim for National Championship Repeat

Clemson will be making its 23rd straight trip to the NCAA National Tournament this year, the longest string of any Clemson athletic team in history.

The Tigers qualified for the national tournament by virtue of its victory at the NCAA East Regional May 20-22. The top 10 teams advanced for that regional and the Tigers did so with ease, winning the event by six shots over Penn State.

Clemson's streak of 23 straight tournament bids is second to Oklahoma State's 58. The Cowboys are also in the field of 30 teams, having qualified after finishing second at the Central Regional to champion Kentucky.

Clemson will begin defense of its national championship at the par 70, 6679-yard Cascades Course at The Homestead with tee times starting at 12 noon on Tuesday, June 1 and starting at 7:00 AM on Wednesday, June 2. Tee times for the final two rounds are based on team standings at that point in the tournament.

This is Larry Penley's 21st year as Clemson head coach and he has taken the Tigers to the NCAA National tournament all 21 years. His Tigers are ranked second in the nation in the latest polls according to the Golf Coach's Association and the Sagarin Computer rankings.

This year's Clemson team is finishing strong, having won the ACC Tournament and the East Regional in its last two outings. The Tigers have competed in 13 tournaments (12 stroke play and one match play) and finished in the top four 11 of those 13 events. Among the top four finishes was a third-place standing out of 15 teams at The Preview on September 22-23, 2003.

Leading the way from a stroke average standpoint is Matt Hendrix. A May, 7 2004 graduate and native of Aiken, SC, Hendrix has a 70.94 stroke average for his 32 rounds, an average that is on pace to be the third best in Clemson history for a single season. He has scored under-par in 19 of those 32 rounds, including a team best 11 rounds in the 60s. A first-team All-ACC selection each of the last two years, Hendrix was a finalist for the 2004 Ben Hogan Award. He is 10th according to the latest Sagarin rankings and has won two tournaments this year.

Jack Ferguson, a junior from Seneca, has a 71.34 stroke average this year for his 35 rounds of competition. Ferguson had been Clemson's most consistent golfer prior to the NCAA East Regional, but a back ailment limited his effectiveness at Yale and he finished 51st, his worst finish in the last two years. But, with 10 days in between events, Ferguson should be back to top form for the national tournament. For the season, Ferguson has a 71.34 stroke average and is ranked 17th in the nation according to the latest rankings. His 72.03 career stroke average is fourth best in school history. He has 10 top 20 finishes for his 12 events this year.

Gregg Jones is a third first-team All-ACC selection on this year's team that will be competing in the NCAA national. The native of Florence will be starting in his fourth NCAA national tournament, the only active Tiger who can make that statement. He has a chance to become the first athlete in any sport in Clemson history to play on four different top three teams. Jones is coming off a 14th place finish at the NCAA regional, including a 66 in the final round that tied for the low round by an individual in the 141-player field. He has a 72.71 stroke average for this year and his 72.64 career average is seventh best in school history. Jones was Clemson's top golfer at the Preview at the Homestead back in the fall with a 141 total, good enough for fifth place individually.

Stephen Poole has been the surprise of the year. A sophomore, who had never played in an event prior to this season, the native of Spartanburg has a 72.56 stroke average for his six tournaments. He has three top 10 finishes and was a strong contributor to Clemson's East Region Championship with a 218 score.

Brent Delahoussaye is the final player in Clemson's lineup. The junior is coming off a number-four finish at the NCAA East Regional, his best finish in his 29 tournament career. He had a 211 score, just four strokes short of Bill Haas's winning total, and best by a Clemson golfer by three shots. He had played in just one event since March 22nd. For the year, Delahoussaye has played in 10 tournaments and has a 73.93 stroke average. He finished ninth at the Preview at the Homestead in the Fall.

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