Two teams from the American Athletic Conference advanced to this week’s NCAA Men’s Golf Championship in Eugene, Ore., while two CAA golfers gave the CAA a first.
James Madison junior Ryan Cole (above) and College of Charleston junior William Rainey both finished as the low individuals in their NCAA Regionals last week, the first time two CAA golfers advanced to the NCAA Championships.
Cole shot a 3-under 69 in the third and final round of the Franklin, Tenn., Regional to finish at 14-under and tie for second out of 75 golfers at the Vanderbilt Legends Club. Overall, he shot 202 to set a career-low score over 54 holes, including a second-round 64.
“Ryan was strong to start-to-finish and he represented JMU the right way,” said Dukes head coach Jeff Forbes. “I couldn’t be more proud of the way he played and carried himself throughout, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he does in Oregon.”
Rainey (above) shot a 4-under 68 in the final round of the Tuscaloosa, Ala., Regional to finish at 7-under and third out of 75 golfers at the at the Ol’ Colony Golf Complex. He becomes the first golfer in school history to qualify for nationals as an individual. CofC last advanced to nationals as a team in 2001 in Durham, N.C.
As a team, the CAA champion Cougars finished seventh, their highest regional finish.
“I am disappointed that we did not advance as a team, but I am very excited that William will be representing us at the NCAA Championship,” CofC head coach Mark McEntire said. “He has had a great year and deserves this opportunity.”
The top five teams and the top individual not on those teams from each regional will compete starting Friday at Eugene Country Club.
Houston, which surged to a tie for third in the Franklin Regional, and 15th-ranked South Florida, which finished fourth at the Albuquerque, N.M., Regional, will be among the 30 teams in the field.
The 35-ranked Cougars advanced, led by sophomore Michael Perras (above), who captured the individual championship with a score of 16-under 200 after posting a bogey-free 66 in in the final round.
Perras became the second Cougars golfer to post three consecutive rounds in the 60s in NCAA Regional play, joining current teammate senior Blair Hamilton (2015). He also joined Hamilton, Brett Callas (2003) and Dean Larsson (1994) as Cougars to win NCAA Regional individual titles.
“Michael has done a great job for us and has shown a tremendous amount of growth from his freshman year to now. He just continues to get better every week,” said director of golf Jonathan Dismuke, who will led the Cougars to their third consecutive NCAA Championships. “He has a great work ethic and knows what he needs to improve his game. From tee to green, he was awesome to watch. Once he got on the greens, he really putted the ball beautifully.”
USF, led by sophomore Claudio Correa (above), are excited about another shot at the national title. The AAC champions advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals last year in head coach Steve Bradley’s first season with the program.
“It’s a grind out there, but we’re extremely happy and looking forward to going to Oregon,” Bradley said. “At the beginning of the year, the goal is certainly to go compete for a national championship. Once you get here, you know you want to win, but you just want to advance. I think we’re pretty relieved.”
Correa finished fifth finish at 4-over at New Mexico’s Championship Course. The sophomore from Chile led the 75-player field with 13 total birdies after collecting five in the final round.
Missouri-Kansas City senior Antoine Rozner (above) will join Cole, Rainey, Houston and USF after finishing second at the Stillwater, Okla., Regional at Karsten Creek Golf Course.
The native of Paris, France, becomes the second UMKC golfer to advance to the NCAA Championship (Robert Russell in 1997) and the first WAC golfer since 2006 when Nevada made the tournament as a team.
“It’s amazing,” Rozner said. “Everybody who plays in college golf dreams about going to the NCAA finals. It’s a huge accomplishment and I can’t wait to be there. It’s one of the biggest amateur tournaments in the world so I’m really excited. But I won’t go there just to play, I definitely want to do something great and I’m confident if I play the way I played this week I’ll be in good shape.”
As a team, the Kangaroos finished 12th in the 14-team regional field.