The Road to Grayhawk: Previewing the men's conference championships
Before the NCAA Regional field is announced in a few weeks, teams and individuals throughout the country will fight it out for bragging rights at their respective conference tournaments. The conference championships also give a chance for teams in the bubble to strengthen their positions with the hopes of landing a spot in one of the six regionals.
Here are six conference championships we'll be keeping an eye on.
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Southeastern Conference Championships
Sea Island Golf Club (Seaside Course)
Sea Island, Ga.
Top-ranked Vanderbilt has won six tournaments this season and will be shooting for its third straight SEC crown starting next Wednesday at Sea Island Golf Club. Three rounds of stroke play will determine the individual championship and the eight teams for the match-play portion of the championship. Rankings alone suggest Auburn, Florida and Texas A&M will be the biggest threats to the Commodores, but don't discount Tennessee, who defeated Vanderbilt to win the SEC Match Play in September. Two of the top amateurs in the world will be on hand at Sea Island in reigning NCAA individual champion Gordo Sargent of Vanderbilt and current U.S. Amateur champion Sam Bennett of Texas A&M, who will return to the Aggies lineup after an outstanding run at the Masters.
Atlantic Coast Conference Championships
Country Club Of North Carolina
North Carolina, ranked second in the nation behind Vanderbilt, will be the prohibitive favorite at the Country Club of North Carolina, with No. 6 Florida State and No. 7 Georgia Tech and No. 16 Virginia will jockey for seedings in the four-team match play portion of the tournament. The Tar Heels are loaded and seem to be on a collision course with Vanderbilt at Grayhawk in late May.
Big 12 Conference Championships
Prairie Dunes Country Club
There should be plenty of fireworks at Prairie Dunes Country Club, where teams will play 72 holes of stroke play over three days to decide the team and individual champion. Led by Ludvig Aberg, the top-ranked amateur in the world, Texas Tech will be the strong favorite at Prairie Dunes. In October, the Red Raiders downed Oklahoma to win the Big 12 Match Play title at Houston Oaks Country Club and defeated North Carolina in the Big 12/ACC Showdown in Hawaii, which was put together after the Amer Ari Invitational was canceled due to high winds. If you are looking for a sleeper team to challenge Vanderbilt and North Carolina at Grayhawk, Texas Tech might be a good bet.
Big Ten Conference Championships
Galloway National Golf Club
Illinois has won the last seven Big Ten Championships and there's no reason to believe the Illini won't make it eight in a row at Galloway National Golf Club. Adrien Dumont de Chassart is as good as anyone in the country and Tommy Kuhl, Jackson Buchanan and Matthis Besard give the Illini quality depth. Illinois has quietly won five tournaments this season and has two seconds and a third in three other events. Don't be at all surprised if the Illini make some noise at Grayhawk in May.
West Coast Conference Championships
Gold Canyon Golf Club
After losing three players from its roster a year ago, Pepperdine has improved with each and every tournament on the year. The Waves are cresting after its impressive victory at the Western Intercollegiate at Pasatiempo Golf Club, where fifth-year senior Derek Hitchner broke through with his victory as a collegian. San Francisco and San Diego, two teams with hopes of gaining a spot in the NCAA Regionals, will challenge the Waves.
Pac-12 Conference Championships
Stanford Golf Course
It's hard to go against No. 7 Stanford but fifth-ranked Arizona State, No. 19 Arizona, No. 22 Oregon and Washington look to upset the Cardinal on its home course while California, Colorado, USC and Oregon State look to open the eyes of the NCAA Selection Committee. Stanford's Michael Thorbjornsen is the second-ranked amateur in the world behind Ludvig Aberg in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings, while Arizona State, featuring Preston Summerhays, Ryggs Johnston, Josele Ballester and Luke Potter and Michael Mjaaseth boasts talent and depth throughout its lineup.
ABOUT THE NCAA Division I Championship
30 teams and 6 individuals not on a qualifying
team make up the field for the championship of
Division I women's golf.
After 72 holes of stroke play, the individual
champion is crowned, and the low 8 teams advance
match play to determine the team champion.
View Complete Tournament Information