It just could be that the UAB men’s golf team saves its best for last.
It happened last year, when the Blazers lost the Conference USA championship to North Texas but went on to win the NCAA Regional in Bremerton, Wash., to reach the NCAA Tournament.
This year, No. 38 UAB was upset in the Conference USA championship by Louisiana Tech. But the Blazers will compete in the Marana (Ariz.) Regional, their fifth consecutive postseason appearance.
“It’s a bitter pill to swallow for us,” said UAB coach Alan Murray, the conference coach of the year, “but we have to dust ourselves down and get ready for NCAA Regionals. Last year we had a similar experience and played great at regionals and won. Hopefully we can do the same this year.”
UAB is among ASN’s 20 partner schools and 16 individuals competing in the NCAA Regionals Monday through Wednesday, including:
- American Athletic Conference champion South Florida: USF is the No. 3 seed in the Albuquerque (N.M.) Regional, which includes Southern Cal and Arizona State. The 15th-ranked Bulls advanced to the NCAA Championship match-play quarterfinals last year. Three players from that team — Chase Koepka, Rigel Fernandes, Claudio Correa — are a part of this season’s lineup that captured the program’s second consecutive conference title by 20 shots over Memphis.
- Atlantic 10 champion VCU: Fresh off a third consecutive conference championship, the Rams are the No. 3 seed in the Stillwater (Okla.) Regional. The field includes No. 5 Clemson, regional host and No. 8 Oklahoma State, No. 19 Duke and No. 20 Oklahoma. VCU is led by two-time A-10 individual medalist Adam Ball.
- Big South champion Liberty: led by Isaiah Logue, The Flames tied for the third-lowest 54-hole total in conference tournament history to win their fourth conference championship in six years. They are the No. 11 seed in the Albuquerque Regional.
- CAA champion College of Charleston: Led by William Rainey, the Bucs won the league championship by 22 shots to earn an automatic bid to the Tuscaloosa (Ala.) Regional, which features No. 1 seed Georgia, Auburn, South Carolina, host Alabama and Kentucky. Rainey became the Cougars’ fifth golfer to earn individual medalist honors in the CAA championships.
- Horizon League champion Cleveland State: The Rams are making their third consecutive appearance at the NCAA Regionals and seventh in 11 years. Led by Joey Krecic, they are the 13th seed in the Albuquerque Regional that includes top seeds Southern Cal, Arizona State and USF.
- Ivy League champion Harvard: led by Aurian Capart and Robert Deng, advanced to the Tuscaloosa Regional after earning its first Ancient Eight championship since 1975.
- MAC champion Kent State: The Golden Flashes makes their 24th NCAA Regional appearance. The Golden Flashes, led by Ian Holt, MAC Player of the Year Chase Johnson and MAC Freshman of the Year Gisli Sveinbergsson, won their 23rd conference championship and seventh in eight years by 20 strokes over Eastern Michigan. They will compete as the eighth seed in the Kohler (Wis.) Regional, which includes Big Ten champion Illinois, Florida and Florida State.
- Patriot League champion Army West Point: Led by individual medalist Dean Sakata, the Black Knights won the league championship by 22 strokes over Navy. Three players finished in the top five and all six finished in the top 30 as Army advanced to the Albuquerque Regional as the No. 11 seed.
- Southern Conference champion East Tennessee State: The school Rory McIlroy almost attended won its SoCon-leading 19th title when senior Adrian Meronk two-putted from 35 feet to give the Buccaneers a one-stroke victory over UNC Greensboro and Meronk a one-stroke victory for the individual title. The nation’s 17th-ranked player leads the Bucs to the Kohler Regional as the No. 10 seed.
- Southland Conference champion McNeese State: The confident Cowboys, led by Southland Player of the Year and scoring leader Martin Eriksson (71.6), will be the No. 11 seed in the Stillwater (Okla.) Regional. They have won two of their last three tournaments while finishing second in the third.
- WAC champion Missouri-Kansas City: The Kangaroos, led by conference Player of the Year Antoine Rozner (70.3) and Freshman of the Year Francois Lagraulet (71.9), won their first WAC championship and will be the No. 13 seed in the StillwaterRegional.
UT Martin sophomore Hunter Richardson captured OVC medalist honors with a 6-foot putt on the final hole to give the Skyhawks a one-stroke victory over Morehead State and their first conference championship.
“This is something that I don’t know that I dreamed would ever happen,” said UTM’s Jerry Carpenter, the OVC Coach of the Year. “It’s awfully special.”
The C-USA champion Bulldogs, led by three-time first-team all-conference selection Victor Lange (above) and Freshman of the Year Ian Snyman, are the 12th seed in the Marana Regional.
“We caught a break, honestly,” said Bulldogs coach Jeff Jenkins. “I was telling a few people before they announced it that there’s six regional sites and four of the sites are hosted by four of the top teams in the country — Vanderbilt, Oklahoma State, New Mexico and Alabama — so to go to a regional without one of those teams as a home-course advantage is a break for us.”
North Texas (No. 11 seed) also will compete in the Marana Regional, giving Conference USA three regional teams.
Last year, two Conference USA teams advanced to the NCAA Tournament (UAB and Charlotte, which won the Chapel Hill Regional) and two C-USA players finished in the top 10 — UAB’s Paul Dunne (fifth) and Charlotte’s Riley Davenport (tied for eighth).
Dunne also made history in July by becoming the first amateur since Bobby Jones in 1927 to lead the British Open after 54 holes — with Murray, his former coach, as his caddy.
This season, Murray’s Blazers have consistently ranked among the top teams in the nation. They have six top-three finishes and won their signature event, the Graeme McDowell Shoal Creek Invitational, by 15 strokes.
Led by sophomores Taylor Eyster, the conference tournament’s individual champion, and Lee Hodges, UAB led Conference USA with a 289.46 team scoring average in 12 tournaments. Both earned first-team all-conference honors.
“He has such great talent, and hopefully this win reinforces just how good he can be,” Murray said of Eyster, the Blazers’ first conference champion since Zach Sucher in 2008. “To win a conference title individually as a sophomore is a special feat.”
The Blazers also return Martin Rohwer, who last year shot a course-record 64 in the final round to lead UAB to its first regional title.
The low five teams and the low individual not on those teams from each regional will advance to the NCAA Tournament on May 27-June 1 at Eugene Country Club in Eugene, Ore.
The other NCAA Regional participants from ASN partner schools:
- Frederik Dreier, UTEP: The junior, who earned C-USA Player of the Year honors by leading the league with a 71.8 average, will compete in the Albuquerque Regional.
- Seth Gandy, Charlotte: The junior, who led the 49ers with a 73.2 season stroke average, will compete in the Tuscaloosa Regional.
- East Carolina: The Pirates, led by senior Jacob Hicks , finished fourth in the AAC Tournament to earn their second consecutive regional bid and fourth in the last six years. They will be the No. 11 seed in the Franklin Regional.
- Houston: The Cougars finished third in the AAC Tournament, led by sophomore Michael Perras and senior Vincent Martino, who tied for ninth. They will be the No. 6 seed in the Franklin Regional.
- Memphis: The Tigers, led by AAC Tournament runner-up Thomas Perrot, will compete in the Stillwater Regional as the No. 7 seed.
- Manuel Elvira, UCF: The sophomore, who finished tied for ninth in the AAC Tournament after narrowly missing an eagle on No. 18, will compete in the Tuscaloosa Regional. He led the Knights with a 72.7 average and talked to ASN about preparing for the NCAA Regionals:
- Matthew Lowe, Richmond: The sophomore averages 71.6, tops in school history and 75th in the nation. He will compete in the Franklin Regional.
- Billy Walthouse, Rhode Island: The junior, averaging 71.7 this season, is the seventh Rams player to make the NCAA Regionals. He will compete in the Kohler Regional.
- Campbell: The Camels finished second in the conference tournament, led by Big South Freshman of the Year Jesper Svensson, and will be No. 11 seed in the Kohler Regional.
- Charleston Southern: Big South Player of the Year Austin James won conference tournament medalist honors with an 11-under 205, one shy of Dustin Johnson’s record 12-under in 2007. He leads the 10th-seeded Buccaneers, who received the first at-large berth in school history, into the Tuscaloosa Regional.
- Ryan Cole, James Madison: The CAA Championship runner-up averages 70.45, which ranks ranks 13th in the nation. The nation’s 47th-ranked golfer will compete in the Franklin Regional.
- Patrick Cover, UNC Wilmington: The sophomore and teammate Thomas Eldridge are UNCW’s first individuals to compete in the NCAA tournament since 2009. He led the Seahawks with a 72.8 average and will compete in the Franklin Regional.
- Thomas Eldridge, UNC Wilmington: The sophomore had six top-10 finishes this season averaged 72.9, second on the Seahawks. He will also compete in the Franklin Regional.
- Ryan Wenzler, Wright State: The junior, the first Raiders player to win three tournaments in a season since Frank Lickliter in 1989-90, advanced to the Franklin Regional by winning the Horizon League individual championship.
- Luke Graboyes, Cornell: The junior, the first Big Red golfer to win medalist honors at the Ivy championships since Jim Bird in 1986, won by a stroke lead over Dartmouth’s Ian Kelsey and will compete in the Kohler Regional.
- George Baylis, Akron: The first individual conference champion in school history, Baylis will compete in the Kohler Regional. He carded a 4-under 67 final round to win the MAC title and finished sixth in the MAC with a 73.2 average.
- Otto Black, Toledo: The senior, a four-time all-conference selection, will compete in the Kohler Regional. His career-best 72.9 stroke average that ranks fourth in the MAC.
- Patrick Flavin, Miami (Ohio): The sophomore, who earned first-team all-conference honors, averages 72.4 and won two tournaments this season. He will also compete in the Kohler Regional.
- Wes Gosselin, UT Chattanooga: The junior is the first Mocs player to earn an at-large bid since 1993, and he will compete in the Tuscaloosa Regional. His 72.29 stroke average is fifth-best in school history.
- Jake McGlone, UNC Greensboro: The junior is the second Spartans player to earn an at-large bid, and he will compete in the Franklin Regional. He led UNCG with a 73.2 average to earn first-team all-conference honors.
- Andrew Novak, Wofford: The sophomore, who ranked No. 2 in the SoCon with a 70.76 average, set a Division I 54-hole school record with a 13-under-par 203 at the Wexford Plantation Intercollegiate in February. He will compete in the Tuscaloosa Regional.