May 7, 2007
Clemson, SC–Clemson’s golf team received a bid to the NCAA Tournament for the 26th consecutive year on Monday. The streak of appearances is the second longest in college golf, trailing only the active streak of 61 consecutive years by Oklahoma State. It is the 27th overall bid for the Clemson men’s golf program.
Larry Penley’s team will start play in the NCAA East Regional at Golf Club of Georgia in Alpharetta on Thursday, May 17. The 54-hole event will conclude on Saturday, May 19. The top 10 teams in the 27-team regional will advance to the NCAA Championship Tournament at The Golden Horseshoe in Williamsburg, VA, May 30 through June 2. It is the 24th consecutive NCAA tournament bid for Penley in 24 years as Clemson’s head coach.
Clemson has competed in the NCAA Tournament every year since 1982. The Tigers have won seven NCAA Regional titles, more than any other Division I school. The NCAA adopted the regional qualifying format in 1989 and Clemson has advanced to the national tournament from the regional every year but one (2005).
Last year, Clemson finished eighth at the NCAA Central Regional in Cleveland, OH, the first time Clemson had been assigned to somewhere other than the East Regional. Clemson then went on to finish seventh at the national tournament in Oregon.
Clemson’s finest NCAA Tournament performance came in 2003 when the Tigers won their only national championship with a two-stroke victory over host school Oklahoma State. Clemson also won the regional tournament and the ACC Tournament that year, the first school in NCAA history to win all three of those events in the same year.
The Tigers are certainly familiar with the Golf Club of Georgia, having claimed the team title at the 2006 U.S. Collegiate Championship played at the course. This season, Clemson finished sixth at the same event and actually were second heading into the final round. The Tigers are back in the East Regional after a one-year break and are the event’s #2 seed behind the nation’s top-ranked team, the University of Georgia. The East Regional will feature a strong field again in 2007, with six of the nation’s top 20 teams according to the latest Golfweek/Sagarin ratings. Georgia (1st), Florida (7th), Georgia Tech (10th), Clemson (11th), Coastal Carolina (12th), and Charlotte (20th) are all ranked among the top 20 nationally.
Clemson is expected to take a young squad to the NCAA regional tournament next week. The five players will include three freshmen, the first time Clemson has had three freshmen in its lineup since the 1995 NCAA Regional when freshmen Charles Warren, Joey Maxon and Chad Starliper helped the Tigers to the regional championship at the Yale University Course in New Haven, CT. That team had a sophomore (Richard Coughlan) and a junior (Mike Byce), so it had the same class distribution as this year’s Clemson team.
This will be just the third time that Clemson has had three freshmen in the lineup for the NCAA Tournament. The 1990 team featured freshmen Danny Ellis, Nicky Goetze and Bobby Doolittle, in addition to seniors Chris Patton and Oswald Drawdy. Freshman Kyle Stanley has led the Tiger golf team all year. The first freshman in league history to win the ACC Player of the Year Award, Stanley enters the NCAA Tournament with a 71.38 stroke average, the best in Clemson history for a freshman and on pace to be the ninth best in school history overall. He also leads the team in under-par rounds with 13, rounds in the 60s with seven and top 10 finishes with four. He has finished in the top 20 in every tournament so far this year.
Ben Martin is a second freshman expected to be in the Clemson lineup. Like Stanley an All-ACC performer as a freshman, Martin had a 73.15 stroke average during the regular season. He had eight rounds at par or better, including a 64 in his second round of the year at the Carpet Classic in Dalton, GA. He did not play in the ACC Tournament due to illness, but the native of Greenwood, SC is expected to return to the lineup for the NCAA Tournament.
Sam Saunders is the third freshman in the Clemson lineup. The rookie from Florida has a 73.95 stroke average for the year and has a pair of top 10 finishes, a 10th place at the Isleworth Collegiate in Florida, and an eighth place at the Puerto Rico Classic.
Tanner Ervin is a junior from Mount Pleasant, SC who will be playing in his third career NCAA Regional. He finished 47th at Sand Ridge Golf Club in Cleveland last year, including a clutch final round 72 when he helped the Tigers make the 10-team cut with an eighth-place finish. He tied for Clemson’s best player in that final round last year.
So far this year Ervin has a 73.91 stroke average, third best on the team. He is coming off a career best seventh-place finish at the ACC Tournament when he shot a two-under par 214 for the 54 holes. He shot par or better in all three rounds for the first time in his Clemson career.
David May is a sophomore who will be playing in his second NCAA Regional. The native of Auburn, NC shot a 223 for the 54-holes in Cleveland, OH last year, carding consistent scores of 74-74-75. May has a 74.25 stroke average this year, but is coming off his best tournament of the year when he had an even par 216 total and finished 12th at the ACC Tournament in Uwharrie Point, NC. He shot an even-par 72 in all three rounds at the ACC Tournament.
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