Arkansas Must Excel at Regionals to Take Next
BY ANDRES FOCIL
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The 20th ranked Arkansas golf team will compete in a NCAA regional tournament for the first time since 1999, when it travels to Manhattan, Kansas on May 15-17. Last week the Razorbacks earned a spot as the eighth seed in the NCAA central region, after finishing seventh in the Southeastern Conference Championships.
“This is what we’ve worked hard for all year,” Arkansas head coach Mike Ketcham said. “We’ve wanted to be in a position to advance to regionals with hopes of going to the NCAA tournament. It’s an event unlike any other we’ve played in all year. You have to have the mindset going in that you are going to win. If you go in with the mindset that you have to finish in the top 10, then you’ll be on the bubble, so we have to go in wanting to win.”
This past weekend the Hogs played in their last regular season tournament in Ardmore, Okla., at the Perry Maxwell Intercollegiate. After getting off to a rough start in the first round they rallied to a fourth place showing, with the freshmen leading the way.
“I thought the Perry Maxwell was really important and we got a lot out of it,” Ketcham said. “First, being that the freshmen led the way for the very first time and second, Andrew Dahl had his least successful tournament of the year. That just goes to show that we can still play well as a team when our top golfer isn’t performing his best, but we need all five guys to play well at regionals.”
In order to advance to the NCAA Championships in Stillwater, Okla., on May 27-30, the Razorbacks must finish in the top 10 of their region, which will not be an easy task. Arkansas is in the company of a loaded field of 26 other golf programs, most of whom they’ve seen during the regular season.
Schools in the central region include (in order of seeding): Big 12 champions, Texas; Conference USA champions, TCU; Oklahoma State; North Carolina-Chapel Hill; Big 10 champions, Minnesota; N.C. State; Oklahoma; Arkansas; Illinois; Northwestern; SMU; Baylor; Tulsa; Kentucky; Southland champions, Lamar; Toledo; Michigan State; Missouri Valley champions, Wichita State; Sunbelt champions North Texas; Texas A&M; Ohio State; Kent State; Texas Tech; Kansas; Missouri; Kansas State and Wright State.
Juniors Andrew Dahl, Seth Murphy and Adam Wing and freshmen Paul Bradshaw and Darren Holder make up the five-man team playing on Colbert Hills Golf Course.
Dahl has the lowest stroke average on the team with a 71.5, but faltered at the Maxwell. He came in a tie with Murphy for 41st with a nine-over-par 219. It was one of Dahl’s lowest finishes of the season and he hopes to return to his winning ways at the regional tournament.
With two tourney victories and seven top-10 performances to his credit Dahl is ranked 32nd in Golfweek/Sagarin Men’s Individual Rankings and fourth among nationally ranked SEC golfers.
Murphy is also looking to bounce back as he heads into regionals with a 73.9 stroke average, the fourth lowest on the team.
Wing is right behind Dahl with a 73.2 average. At the Maxwell Wing tied for 33rd place with an eight-over-par 218.
Freshman Paul Bradshaw is planning on continuing the success he found at the Maxwell where he posted a career-best fifth place finish with a one-under-par 209. That brought his average to 73.5. Fellow freshman Darren Holder is also riding a recent wave of success with a 74.8 average. He finished second on the team and 29th overall at the Maxwell with a score of 217 (+7).
Eighteen-hole rounds will be played each day of the NCAA Central Region Championships, with a practice round on Wednesday May 14. Arkansas is paired with Illinois and Oklahoma for a 12 p.m. tee time on Thursday May 15, and 7:57 a.m., tee time on Friday May 16. Pairings for Saturday May 17 will be made according to position at the end of two rounds.
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