Ernest Ross, in his fifth year back as Ole Miss head coach, heard the Rebels' name called Monday for the third straight postseason as they travel to the NCAA's Bowling Green (Ky.) Regional May 14-16.
The past two years, in NCAA Regionals in Atlanta and Chattanooga, the Rebels have failed to advance to the National Championship Tournament, which consists of the top 30 teams following the Regionals.
During those previous two years, there were only three Regionals across the country. This year the field hasn't been expanded, but now there are six Regionals with less teams at each site.
Ole Miss is one of 14 teams in the Bowling Green (Ky.) Regional. The top five teams from each of the six Regionals throughout the country advance to Toledo, Ohio's prestigious Inverness Club.
The Rebels hope this is their year to advance. Their seed, as selected by the NCAA committee, means they are considered to be one of the top 30 teams.
"We're the fifth seed, but we've been seeded high enough in the past to get in (to the National Championship)," Ross said. "But you don't get in on your seed. You have to play your way in. To be honest, we haven't played well in Regionals the last two years. Maybe this is our time. I think we're ready."
Senior Jesse Speirs and junior Will Roebuck will join sophomore Jonathan Randolph and freshmen Joe David and Billy Brozovich at The Club at Olde Stone, located in Alvaton, Ky., just outside Bowling Green.
"Two of our guys (freshmen Joe David and Billy Brozovich) have played there before," Ross said. "It's a difficult, long, hard golf course. Some years we've had to shoot really low scores to get out. I don't think that will be the case this year. I think this fits our game. We have some guys that hit it long. We're not known as a great birdie team, but we're a team that plays really well on hard golf courses."
David, from Madison, Tenn., has taken lessons in the summer at The Club at Olde Stone. He said the Rebels will have several supporters at the tournament, some of them his own family and friends.
"I'm real excited going there," he said. "We'll have a lot of fans there. My family is going to be there. I think the course sets up real nice for us. It's narrow and tough in some places. But some of the holes really let us stretch out our game. It's like playing at home for me. I've played the course, taken lessons there, and know some of the people there. It's going to be a great atmosphere."
David earned All-SEC second-team honors in his first year and owns a team-leading 72.78 stroke average. He has two top-5, three top-10 and seven top-20 finishes this school year. He tied for second at the Squire Creek Invitational in Ruston, La., for his best finish, and also tied for fourth at the Shoal Creek Invitational in suburban Birmingham, Ala. He posted 15 rounds at par or better this season.
Randolph, of Brandon, said he believes the Rebels are ready to advance from the Regional to Toledo.
"We're taking two freshmen, a sophomore, and a couple of the older guys," Randolph said. "I think we're really, really mentally strong. Last year at Chattanooga, we didn't do well. But I really like this team on tougher courses. It seems to separate the pack a little bit. It seems to help us. We've been maturing all year, and we're definitely due."
Eleven SEC teams got in. Only Auburn, normally an NCAA tourney participant, failed to make the field.
Ross has been a part of five of the Rebels' eight all-time NCAA men's golf team appearances. During his first stint as Rebel head coach, he led the team to a 20th-place NCAA finish in 1984 and a fourth-place national finish in 1985.
And now he sends another talented group to the NCAA Regional with the hope of playing beyond that. The Rebels have seven top-5 finishes in tournaments this school year.
"We're not satisfied," Ross said. "We want to be better. I want us to continue to get better as a program."
And, of course, to advance to Toledo later this month.
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