Men's Golf

SMU Travels To Florida For American Athletic Conference Championships

Go smu! Austin Smotherman
Go smu!
Austin Smotherman
Go smu!

April 24, 2014

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The inaugural American Athletic Conference Championships will commence on Sunday at the Innisbrook Resort on the Copperhead Course in Innisbrook, Fla. The three-day event will end Tuesday, with the champion earning an automatic berth to the NCAA Regionals.

The tournament field features 10 teams, two of which are ranked in GolfStat's top 10 and the Nike/GolfWorld Top 25 Coaches Poll. No. 7/7 UCF and No. 10/9 Houston lead the field, while two teams (USF and SMU) are receiving votes in the latest coaches poll. Five individuals in the field are ranked in GolfStat's top 50 - No. 7 Greg Eason (UCF), No. 21 Ricardo Gouveia (UCF), No. 26 Bryson Dechambeau (SMU), No. 35 Roman Robledo (Houston) and No. 49 James Ross (Houston). Both Eason and Dechambeau are semifinalists for the Ben Hogan Award for most outstanding amateur collegiate golfer of the year.

SMU has won eight conference titles in the program's history - five as a member of the Southwest Conference (1931, 1953, 1955, 1956, 1988), two in the WAC (2004, 2005) and one in the Conference USA (2006). SMU won three straight titles from 2004-06, and three of four from 1953-56. SMU took second at the C-USA Championships last season, falling just three strokes short of Houston. SMU has had 11 individual conference champs, with Will Dodson recording the last two in 2005 (WAC) and 2006 (C-USA). Hank Kuenhe won the SWC title in 1996 and Payne Stewart did the same in 1979. The Mustangs had four conference champions in the 1930s and three in the 1950s.

Sophomore Bryson Dechambeau was selected to the United States' Palmer Cup squad as a committee selection on April 17, less than 24 hours after being named a Ben Hogan Award (given to the most outstanding amateur collegiate golfer) semifinalist. As of April 12, Dechambeau was the only player in the nation ranked in the top 20 of the World Amateur Golf Ranking, GolfStat, GolfWeek and Scratch Players rankings. The Clovis, Calif., native has six top-five finishes this season and has carded 15 rounds of par or better in 2013-14. Dechambeau shot a career-low 64 (minus-six) in the final round of the Gifford Collegiate at Pelican Hill, moving him to a third-place finish. Dechambeau is the only sophomore among the 10 semifinalists for the Ben Hogan Award. Dechambeau is SMU's second semifinalist for the Ben Hogan Award (Colt Knost, 2007), and the second ever to represent the United States at the Palmer Cup (Hank Kuehne, 1998-99).

Sophomore Austin Smotherman recorded his second top-10 finish of the season after tying for sixth at the Valspar Invitational at Floridian on March 25. Smotherman earned a runner-up result at the Royal Oaks Intercollegiate on Oct. 29, finishing at 10-under par. He has carded a total of 10 rounds of par or better this season, and holds an average round score of 72.89.

Harry Higgs is SMU's lone senior for the 2013-14 season, and he is looking to make it his best season yet. The Overland Park, Kan., native has posted three top-five finishes and is currently ranked 138th in the GolfWeek/Sagarin rankings. Higgs recorded a career-best result at the National Invitational Tournament hosted by Arizona, tying for second (eight-under par).

SMU possesses four sophomores on its 2013-14 roster - Bryson Dechambeau, Austin Smotherman, Ryan Burgess and Maxime Blandin. The four have totaled 97 rounds of golf this season, with 36 under-par frames. The group has also compiled eight top-10 finishes and seven top-five results.

"The American Athletic Conference is a great golf conference, perhaps the most underrated in the country. We have six teams ranked in the top 50, including two in the top 10. We had a nice wake-up call at Pasatiempo a few weeks ago and we can get in contention this weekend. Innisbrook is one of the toughest courses on the PGA Tour, so it will be a great test and a great venue for the conference championship. Hopefully this will be a great springboard heading into the NCAA postseason."

The SMU Mustangs suffered a setback as they placed 11th in the 14-team field at the 68th Annual Transamerica/WFG Western Intercollegiate at the Pasatiempo Golf Course.
SMU led the tournament about halfway through the first round, but struggled to maintain that pace the rest of the tournament. Sophomore Ryan Burgess led SMU with a three-over 213, good for 23rd on the leaderboard. Freshman Andrew Buchanan carded his low round of the tournament with a two-over 74 on Sunday.
"We really struggled all week managing a very demanding course," SMU head coach Josh Gregory said. "Fortunately, this was not in the postseason. This will be a great motivation tool for our postseason run."
No. 1 Stanford won the tournament by 16 strokes over No. 17 Washington. No. 3 California, San Diego State and Oregon rounded out the top five. 10 of the 14 teams in the tournament entered the event ranked in the top 50 in GolfStat's rankings.



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