The SEC standard for golf teams is more challenging than in most sports. That's because there is no regular league season. It's one three-day event for each team, and that makes it tough.
"One of the ways people judge us is how we finish in the conference," UM men's head golf coach Ernest Ross said as his team plays at Frederica Golf Club on St. Simon's Island, Ga, beginning Friday. "We don't have a conference-long record or a year-long record in league play. We get one tournament, three rounds. So in some ways it's everything for us this week."
Certainly that's the case when talking about conference honors. But as far as advancing to the NCAA Tournament, that covers an entire body of work going back to last fall's schedule.
"We will make it to the NCAA Regionals for the third straight year. We're happy about that," Ross said. "Obviously our challenge from there is to make it to the NCAA Finals (30 teams). We have not done that in the past two years. I want to do that, and the players want to do that. That's another one of those accomplishments that defines your program."
The SEC Golf Tournament is an important event. But it doesn't really account for more than the previous ten tournaments the Rebels have played this school year when the NCAA tourney selections are made.
"The field is strong since it's the SEC Tournament," said Ross, whose Rebels won the SEC tourney in 1984 when he coached here earlier in his career. "But this is one/eleventh of our resume' basically. But it's very important to me and to our players to represent ourselves well here."
Ole Miss boasts the fifth best freshman class in the nation in Joe David and Sean Dale. David has made every tournament for the Rebels, while Dale has made all but one. David leads the team in stroke average at 72.72, and Dale is second at 73.03. Between the two of them, they have three top-five, seven top-10 and 13 top-20 finishes. In fact, David has finished in the top 20 in seven of the Rebels' 10 tournaments.
Joining them this weekend will be sophomore Jonathan Randolph, senior Jesse Speirs and junior Will Roebuck. Randolph and Speirs have experience on this course, as they played it last year. Roebuck is coming off a career-low 67 in the final round of the Reunion Intercollegiate to help lead the Rebels to a fourth place.
Ross is hoping for a strong finish, not only this weekend but in the NCAA Tournament to come.
"As Coach Nutt said last year in football about having a November to remember, this is the end of the season for us," he said. "This is what people will remember about us. I feel good about our team right now, so we're hoping to do well over there."
On the women's side, the SEC Tournament also starts Friday and is being held at the Cobblestone Park Golf Club in Blythewood, S.C.
The SEC boasts six women's golf teams in the top 25 led by No. 6 Alabama.
The Rebels are coming off a runner-up finish at the Rebel Intercollegiate. The team shot a final round even par 288 to take second, while senior Dori Carter captured medalist honors, winning her first tournament title.
In addition to being ranked among the top golfers in the nation, Carter is ranked third in the SEC in stroke average at 72.45. She tied for fourth at last year's SEC Championship.
Joining Carter on the links this weekend will be junior Sara Grantham, freshmen Haley Millsap and Ashley Lance and sophomore Jillian Brodd.
"Our final round of the Rebel Intercollegiate gave us motivation for a great week of practice, and the luxury of being at home for our last tournament was a real bonus," said UM head coach Michele Drinkard. "Hearing the roar of the crowd as Dori's putt dropped in for the win still is lingering in our ears, and I get fired up just thinking about it.
"Our focus this week has been to get back on our fundamentals and what each individual needs to work on to improve. It's a never ending process to be on top of your game."
Live scoring for the championship will be available throughout the three days of competition. To access it, go to www.OleMissSports.com and click on the link in the calendar box.
Golf Teams at SEC Tourney
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