Arkansas Golfers Ready to Make Impression at S
BY ANDRES FOCIL
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – After enjoying one of the most successful years in the history of Razorback golf the 19th-ranked Arkansas golf team is primed and ready to compete for a Southeastern Conference Championship as it travels to Sea Island, Ga., on April 24-27.
The Hogs are considered to be a top contender at the championships this year and are eager to bring home a trophy after finishing sixth at the 2002 tournament. The last time an Arkansas team won the SEC crown was in 1995, under coach Bill Woodley.
“As any coach in this conference or at this school, when they go to a championship their number one goal is to win,” Arkansas head coach Mike Ketcham said. “I think that we have put this program in a place that if we play well we will have an opportunity to do that. Obviously our goal is to win, but a lot of things have to happen along the way. There has to be a little luck involved and you have to have some good fortune go your way. I think the guys understand what it takes to win, they know how it feels to win and they know how to win. I think that if we get in that situation, they’ll make the most of it.”
Juniors Andrew Dahl, Seth Murphy and Adam Wing and freshmen Paul Bradshaw and Darren Holder will represent the UA on the par-70, 6,885-yard Seaside golf course. Ketcham is pleased with the course and is confident in his golfers’ abilities to succeed on it.
“The course itself is a big golf course,” Ketcham said. “It’s a course that can be intimidating in a lot of ways. I like that kind of golf course for this team. The bigger the golf course, the more demanding, and we as a coaching staff feel that it plays into our hands and our strengths as a golf team. This is a course that, in my opinion, will not yield a lot of low numbers. I think par is a great number on this course, and if we can keep everyone around par, we’ll have our chance at the end.
“I can’t think of a better venue than Sea Island, Georgia, for our conference championship. I think for a conference or NCAA championship, you want a good test of golf on a great course. This is all you want. It fits all of those things that I think about in a conference championship.”
Dahl has had an outstanding fall and spring campaign and will lead the Razorbacks in the conference tournament with a low stroke average of 71.3. In the Golfweek/Sagarin Men’s Individual Rankings Dahl is the highest ranked Razorback at No. 26, and is fourth among nationally ranked SEC golfers.
So far, Dahl has competed in nine tournaments and posted two tournament victories, including six top 10 finishes. He claimed his first tourney victory at the Stonebridge Invitational on October 22, with a seven-under-par 209 (71-68-70).
On March 19, Dahl was named SEC Golfer of the Week after he helped propel Arkansas to their first tournament victory in five years at the Coastal Carolina Invitational in Myrtle Beach, S.C., on March 11. He came in second with a two-under-par 214 (72-72-70).
Less than a month later he shot a career-best 65 in the first round of the Border Olympics while capturing the tournament title and earned another SEC Golfer of the Week honor.
Murphy has registered three top 10 finishes in the eight tourneys he has competed in and displays a stroke average of 73.5. His top finish came at the Gary Koch Intercollegiate when he shot a four-under-par 140 in the abbreviated tournament to come in fifth.
Wing has also competed in nine tournaments and has the second-lowest stroke average on the team with 73.3. He has been a consistent number two man on the team with six top 25 finishes, his best coming at the Stonebridge Invitational when he tied for sixth with a two-under-par 214.
Bradshaw has provided young talent to the Razorback squad this year with a 73.9 average and four top 25 performances. His best finish of a tie for 11th place came at the Coastal Carolina Invitational when he shot a six-over-par 222.
Holder has seen competition in only four tournaments this season after coming to the UA in January. At the Taylor Made Classic he shot a school record 63 in the second round. His best finish came most recently at the Billy Hitchcock Intercollegiate when he carded a 221 for five over par and a tie for 18th place.
As a team Arkansas has recorded three tournament victories for the year. It marks the first time since the 1996-97 season that an UA golf team has won three or more tournaments in a season. It has captured titles at the Coastal Carolina Invitational (295-296-282=873), the Border Olympics (276-289-294=859) on April 5, and the Billy Hitchcock Intercollegiate (294-290-292=876) on April 13.
The SEC Championships will not be easy to win as five other conference golf programs are ranked in the top 25. Florida is the top ranked school in ninth place. Georgia and Auburn are close together in 12th and 13th, respectively. Vanderbilt is 24th, while Tennessee rounds out the rankings in 25th.
“I’m cautiously optimistic and realize that out of the twelve schools, eight or nine are ranked in the top 30,” Ketcham said. “Everybody in this conference is going in with the same expectations and goals we are. You hope as a coaching staff, in terms of preparation, scheduling and practice that we’ll be ready.”
One round will be played each day starting Friday April 25, at 8 a.m. The final round will be on Saturday April 26. After the SEC Championships the Hogs will take a week off before competing in the Ardmore Classic in Ardmore, Okla., on May 9-11.
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