Rebel golf again selected for NCAA tourney

Last year they got in and were glad to be there. This year they are seeded higher and have their goals clearly on making the national tournament.

The Ole Miss men's golf team found out Monday evening it will be in the NCAA East Regional at Council Fire Golf Club in Chattanooga May 15-17 as the 9th seed in the 27-team field. The top 10 teams advance to the NCAA Championships May 28-31 at Purdue.

There are also two other Regionals, hosted by Ohio State and Washington. Ten teams will also advance from those sites.

Last year Ole Miss also played in the NCAA East Regional, which was held in Atlanta. The Rebs finished 17th in the field of 27.

This year the Rebels are again pleased to be playing near home. It's also a place they are familiar with.

"I'm happy we are in the East Regional, because it's a course we played (Scenic City Invitational) in the fall," said Ole Miss head coach Ernest Ross, leading the Rebels to the NCAA tourney for the second straight year. "We are very familiar with it. It gives our guys a sense of confidence. I know as a past player myself, it's nice to be able to visualize the course you're playing. It's a plus for us."

The Rebels are led by junior Jesse Speirs, who in his first season at Ole Miss earned All-SEC second-team honors and tied for seventh at the SEC Championship. He owns a 72.32 stroke average with three top-five and six top-10 finishes.

"It's good to know we are going to Chattanooga, since we've already played there this year," said Speirs, who last year went to the NCAA Central Regional as a member of the TCU golf team. "Obviously we want to play well and win it, and we want to be one of the 10 teams to go to the finals. Everybody on the team has played the course except Johnny (Delprete)."

Delprete, a freshman, transferred to Ole Miss from Louisville in January.

Joining Speirs and Delprete are seniors Kyle Ellis and David Marino along with freshman Jonathan Randolph.

Ellis is second on the team in scoring with a 72.42 average and has waited five years for the opportunity to go to postseason play. He redshirted last year.

"It's all been worth it," he said. "I knew we would be better this year. I think we have a good team and can make some noise. We played well all year. We could have played better at times, but for the most part, we are pretty solid from No. 1 through No. 5. If we all show up at the Regionals, we should make it to Purdue for sure."

As a team, Ole Miss won four tournament titles this school year. A record 11 men's golf teams from the SEC made the NCAA Regionals. Only Vanderbilt failed to make the field.

Georgia is the top seed in the East Regional and the No. 1 seed in the entire tourney.

South Carolina earned the No. 3 seed in the East. Auburn is the No. 6 seed and Mississippi State received a No.13 seed.

Alabama is the top seed in the Central Regional in Columbus, Ohio. Joining the Crimson Tide in Columbus will be Florida (No. 4), Tennessee (No. 5) and Arkansas (No. 14).

LSU (No. 13) and Kentucky (No. 19) are in the West Regional in Bremerton, Wash.

"If you look up and down (the list of teams in the East), it's really strong," Ross said. "There are five teams from the SEC. Eleven SEC teams got in the tournament. It says a lot about how strong our conference is top to bottom."

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