Golfers' Goal: Advance from Council Fire

Last year the Ole Miss men's golf team made it to the NCAA Tournament. This year the Rebels are in again, and they want to take things one step further.

The goal of the team at this year's three-day East Regional, which begins Thursday in Chattanooga, is to make the top 10 in the 27-team field. That would send them on to the National Championship Tournament at Purdue May 28-31. There are 30 teams from three Regionals who will gather in West Lafayette, Ind.

Last year the Rebs finished 17th at the East Regional in Atlanta and didn't advance.

"I took a different approach this year," said Ole Miss head coach Ernest Ross. "Exams are pretty stressful, and so we really backed off the guys during exam week. The guys came out to the course and practiced an hour or two here or there. We didn't want to push them too hard. We'll see if this approach works better."

Senior David Marino, the only golfer on the team who played in last year's NCAA East Regional for Ole Miss, said he's really excited about ending his college golf career with one last shot at the National Tournament.

"It should be a lot of fun," he said of the Regional being held at Council Fire Golf Club. "We're trying to treat it as just another tournament and go out there and play."

Sounds like the approach Ross mentioned above is working so far. Will it produce positive results on the course? That remains to be seen.

"I learned from it," Marino said of playing in last year's Regional in Atlanta. "I think we may have put too much pressure on ourselves. We didn't perform as well as we should have. I feel we learned from our mistakes last year and will do better this year."

The other four team members who played, which was Ole Miss' first NCAA men's golf appearance in six seasons, won't be there this time around. Gone through graduation last year are Callum Macaulay, Chris Rogers, and Brice Bailey. One other team member, Will Roebuck, redshirted this season and will play next year.

Senior Kyle Ellis redshirted last year, and he's closing out a solid college career with the Rebels.

"We're just trying to approach it as another tournament on another course," Ellis said. "There will be a lot of good teams. I believe if we play our game, we'll be there at the end. We're solid through five guys. We just don't want to put too much pressure on ourselves. We want to go out there and play well."

The ninth-seeded Rebels played at Council Fire, a par 71, 6,961-yard layout, their first tournament of the fall this school year. They finished tied for sixth in the three-day event.

In that tourney, however, Marino shot the low round for the Rebels with a 68, while Ellis and All-SEC junior Jesse Speirs each had 69.

"It does help," Ellis said of having played the course. "We played a practice round and three tournament rounds in September. We'll play another practice round (today), so we should know the course pretty well."

The only one of the five Rebels playing this week who didn't play the fall tournament is Johnny Delprete. He transferred to Ole Miss in January from Louisville. Freshman Jonathan Randolph played in the fall tourney and returns with the team this week to Council Fire.

The Rebels hope their play this week is good enough to advance, and that's what's on their minds.

"Last year we had a good enough team to make it to the finals and we didn't do it," Marino said. "This year we're going to again try to make it, one shot at a time and see what happens."

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