UM men's golf awaits NCAA reward

The Ole Miss men's golf team will find out late Monday afternoon where it will be playing again. The Rebs know they are in the NCAA Tournament. They just don't know the locale.

It could be in the East Region at Chattanooga. Or the Central Region in Columbus, Ohio. Or in the West at Bremerton, Wash.

It appears the preference of the team as a whole would be Chattanooga. It's in the South. That means the playing conditions are similar to the ones most of the players are used to.

But wherever they wind up, their main goal is to get to the NCAA Championships at Purdue May 28-31.

The NCAA takes the top 10 teams from each of the three Regionals to the national tournament. The Rebels want to be one of those 30.

With the Regionals not being played until May 15-17, the Rebels are pacing themselves to get ready. There are other things going on as well since it's the end of the school year.

"We've kinda slowed down on our guys a little bit because exams are coming up," Coach Ernest Ross said. "We've been trying to take a hard look at re-evaluating where their strengths and weaknesses are and re-affirm between the two of us (Ross and assistant coach Jonathan Dismuke) where we need to go from here."

Golf, as in all sports, is a work in progress. Senior Kyle Ellis recently changed from a conventional putting style to a belly putter. Junior Jesse Speirs changed from a conventional putting grip to a left-hand low.

"Both those experiments worked well at the SEC Tournament, so we're going to continue them," Ross said. "We look at any way we can to help these guys get better."

In the Southeastern Conference, it's a must to keep getting better. The league may actually have all 12 teams participate in the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever.

"It's never happened in SEC golf," Ross said. "It just says so much about the strength of our league. Individually there are so many good players. It's so competitive."

Ross said his two seniors in the lineup have been an important part of the growth of the program, and he wants to see them go out on top.

"Kyle Ellis and David Marino are our seniors," he said. "This is their last shot. I want everybody focusing on what we've got coming up."

Joining Ellis and Marino will be the same lineup Ross and Dismuke have fielded the past three tournaments, one of which they won.

Speirs, the Rebels' low man at the SEC Tournament and a recently-named All-SEC team member, will be there as will freshmen Jonathan Randolph and Johnny Delprete.

"At this point, the guys that are playing at this level, they all deserve to be here," Ross said. "It's a real pride thing for the players. If you get this far, you want to make it all the way."

Randolph is a potential SEC All-Freshman team member. The SEC recently sent out ballots for that list.

"I personally feel like he was about the third-best freshman in the SEC this year, so I believe he should be a lock for that team," Ross said.

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