Men's Golf Headed to Conference USA Championship
Men's Golf Headed to Conference USA Championship
GREENVILLE, N.C. - The East Carolina University men's golf team has completed its regular season competition and will be headed to the Conference USA Championship in Tampa, Fla., next week. The three-round tournament will take place at the Lake Jovita Golf and Country Club on April 21-23.
The 2002-03 season has been a successful year for the men's golf team. The Pirates started off strong in the fall, winning one tournament, and finishing second in three events. East Carolina completed the fall season with a record of 60-13.
"Overall, the year has been really good," said ECU head coach Kevin Williams. "We have had eight top-10 finishes which ties the school record, and we have a chance to beat that (record) at the conference tournament next week. Also, we have a chance to have one of the highest winning percentages in school history if we finish fourth or higher. So, a lot of positive things have come out of the year. However, even though we've had a lot of good things happen this season, we still need to win the conference tournament to go to the postseason."
Those two guys would be Jonathan Hill and Jason Harris who have played in the one and two spots, respectively, all season long. Between the two of them, they have 13 top-10 finishes and three individual titles. Hill won both of the Pirates' home tournaments, including the Pirate Fall Intercollegiate in which he set a new school record for lowest score at 15 strokes under par. Hill won the tournament in a three-hole playoff, defeating Eastern Kentucky's Brandon Brown for the title. In the spring, Hill won the Bradford Creek Intercollegiate, outlasting Tony DiBitetto of UNCW and Dale Ketola of Coastal Carolina in a four-hole playoff. In addition, Hill finished in the top 10 in seven tournaments, and the top five in five events (including the two individual wins).
"Individually, Jonathan has got a chance of making the postseason, said Williams. " It's basically in the committee's hands (NCAA South Regional Committee). We only take three or four individuals from our district. Right now he's in the top three or four, but you never can tell when you leave it in the hands of a committee who will go. He stands a good chance if he has a good conference tournament."
Williams is the chairman of the NCAA South Regional Committee, but says he will abstain when it comes to voting for Hill. The other members of the committee are the head coaches from Georgia Southern, Clemson, and North Carolina.
Harris has six top-10 finishes to his name, and one individual title, the Georgetown Hoya Invitational in which he shot a 135 in the two-round tournament.
As for the season, ECU opened the fall with a second place finish at the Mid Pines Intercollegiate (September 9-10), finishing with a score of 866. The Pirates won their first event of the year finishing with a score of 870. Newcomer Calle Andren had a top 10 finish with a tie for seventh place.
East Carolina opened up the month of October with a disappointing 11th place finish at the Adams Cup of Newport. The men rebounded at the Pirate Fall Intercollegiate, finishing second place, just three strokes behind the winner, Eastern Kentucky. The men closed out the fall season at the Georgetown Hoya Invitational where they again finished in second place, 10 strokes behind the winner, Penn State. Harris won the individual title, shooting a 135.
"We played really well in the fall," said Williams. "We got contributions from our three, four and five spots, along with Jason (Harris) and Jonathan (Hill) who played really well."
The spring season began February 24-25 with a fourth place finish at the Beau Chene Classic in Mandeville, La. Southern Miss won the tournament with a score of 853, and ECU finished just four strokes behind the Golden Eagles.
At the Coastal Carolina Invitational, the men again had a disappointing finish, at 10th place, but would finish fourth at the Birkdale Classic just one week later. The men had their worst finish of the season at the Furman Intercollegiate where they placed 12th out of 22 teams. Harris would be the highest finisher in a tie for 19th place.
Despite having the best second-round score of the tournament, the men came away with a third place finish at their home tournament, the Bradford Creek Intercollegiate, completing the event with a score of 894, 13 strokes off the leader. In their final event of the spring, ECU took home a fourth-place finish at the Wofford Invitational. The men were tied for first after round one, but stumbled in round two, shooting a 304 and dropping to fourth place.
"The problem this spring is that we haven't been able to find anyone to help them (Hill and Harris)," said Williams. "We have really struggled in the three, four and five spots, and that is why we have been very inconsistent in the spring."
To complete the spring season, the men will travel to Tampa, Fla., to compete in the Conference USA Tournament, hosted by the University of South Florida. Last year at the conference tournament, the men finished seventh out of 14.
Hill and Harris will again play in the one and two spots, but the remainder of the line-up is still up in the air.
"I have no idea," said Williams when asked who will play in the three, four, and five spots. "It's been so frustrating. We are having qualifying this week, and I hate that we are even having to do that. Calle Andren will definitely play in the number three spot. He has been solid for us this year. He has played better this spring than he did in the fall, still not as good as I would like for him to play, or as good as he can play, but he has been the most consistent of all the rest of the guys, so he will play in the three spot. So, right now we are just qualifying for the last two and just trying to find someone who will step up during the tournament."
Williams says that the Pirates' biggest obstacle at the tournament will be TCU.
"TCU is ranked fifth in the country, and so they are the heavy favorite," said Williams. " Southern Miss is ranked 50, Houston is 65, we are 76, Louisville is 78 and UAB is around 90th. So, we need to be the team that is there when TCU stumbles. Hopefully we can play well enough to win, but I am looking to finish somewhere between second and sixth place. It all depends on how much support we get from the bottom of our line-up."