BALTIMORE, Md. – A two-under team total 278 in the last round of the NCAA Central Regional 11 days ago vaulted Arkansas from 18th into sixth and the Razorbacks get rewarded this week with their second appearance in three years in the NCAA Championships.
The Hogs take the course for the first round on Wednesday at the Caves Valley Golf Club. One of 30 teams in the finals, Arkansas finished sixth in the Central Regional at South Bend, Ind., on May 21.
“I can’t be more proud of five guys, not only the five that played, but all 12 or 13 guys in the golf program and what they’ve accomplished at the end of the year,” fourth-year head coach Mike Ketcham says. “We’ve had some extreme highs and some golf tournaments that we didn’t perform our best, and I knew going into the year it would be this way. I hoped by the end of the year we would be playing our best golf, and I think we certainly are.
“Going into that last round, people have asked me ‘what did you say,’ ‘what did you do the night before to get them to come out and perform?’ We didn’t really do anything different that night before other than talk about playing with an attitude and the fact that we felt like we hadn’t played our best golf yet in that golf tournament. I didn’t know what that was going to be the next round, but I knew if we got off to a good start, it would be a great opportunity in front of us.”
Freshman Eric Shriver (74.1) led the final-day charge in the regional with a four-under 66 and finished with a seven-over 277. Sophomore Matt Bortis (72.7), a second-team All-Southeastern Conference selection, shot a 69 and ended 11th with a two-over 212. Freshman Scotty Campbell (73.6) fired a 71 and carded a three-round total of 221, junior Josh Farrell (74.7) shot a final-round 72 and finished with a 227, and sophomore Beau Glover (76.1) shot 76 to finish with a 230.
“They’re coming in with a hunger. Individually, each one of them have certain goals they want to obtain, and that’s kind of our coaching philosophy to a certain degree,” Ketcham says. “This is a team sport, but it also is an individual sport, and if the individuals take care of themselves and do well, then the team will come to the forefront and we’ll have the success that we want to have. Bortis is on the verge of being an All-American. He’ll need a good NCAA golf tournament, and if he does, then he’s on the cusp of being another All-American at the University of Arkansas. If Scotty Campbell has a good NCAA golf tournament, he could propel himself into the same situation; Eric Shriver as well. We’re playing for a lot.”
Arkansas is ranked No. 42 in the nation in the latest GolfWeek rankings and Bortis, who claimed medalist honors earlier this year by winning the NIT Invitational at Tucson, Ariz., is No. 71 in the individual rankings. Bortis won that tournament with a 12-under 204, helping the Razorbacks finish second in the 14-team event.
Other teams advancing to the finals are Wake Forest, Augusta State, UNLV, Tennessee, Oklahoma State, New Mexico, Georgia, Texas A&M, Washington, Florida, Tulsa, UCLA, Georgia State, Kentucky, Arizona State, Alabama, BYU, Georgia Tech, Missouri, San Diego State, Coastal Carolina, SMU, Arizona, Duke, Texas, Stanford, Georgia Southern, Purdue and Southern Cal.
“I think the key to this golf team is, and it has been all year, is our putting,” Ketcham says. “This team, at the beginning of the year, was averaging 32 putts a round. The PGA Tour averages right at 28.4, I believe. We averaged 28.4 the last round of the regional championship. If you look at our schedule and where we performed well this past year, when we’ve putted well, we shot low numbers, and that’s the key.”
Although Arkansas made it to the NCAA Championships just two years ago, Farrell is the only current Razorback who participated. UA finished 27th in the nation, led by Andrew Dahl, who was 10th individually with a seven-over 295. Seth Murphy shot a 14-over 230, Adam Wing carded a 246, Paul Bradshaw a 248 and Farrell a 259.
Farrell is the first Razorback to participate in two NCAA Championships since Rich Morris played on Arkansas teams advancing to the finals in 1996, 1997 and 1999.