May 21, 2014
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (SMU) - The SMU Mustangs will travel to the Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan., for their first NCAA Championship appearance since 2005 beginning Friday morning. SMU, fresh off a fourth-place result at the NCAA San Antonio Regional and winning the American Athletic Conference title, will be making its 16th all-time showing at the Championships.
ABOUT THE NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS
The 2014 NCAA Championships will begin Friday and the six-day event will conclude on May 28. The Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan., and Wichita State will host the event. Three days of stroke play featuring all 156 players will begin on Wednesday at 7 a.m. The fourth and final round of stroke play will feature the top 40 players after the first three days, and the individual national champion will be crowned. Tuesday and Wednesday will feature three rounds of match play featuring the top eight teams after the first three days of stroke play.
The NCAA Championship field consists of the six Regional champions (Alabama, Oklahoma State, Stanford, Georgia Tech, Georgia and Illinois) and 24 other squads plus the top six individuals from each regional not on an advancing team. 22 of the top-25 players will be competing, including Stanford’s Patrick Rodgers, who won the Ben Hogan Award and is the top-ranked amateur in the world. Five of the top 10 amateurs in the world will be competing: Patrick Rodgers (Stanford), Oliver Schniederjans (Georgia Tech), Cameron Wilson (Stanford), Robby Shelton (Alabama) and Bryson Dechambeau (SMU). SMU is one of two American Athletic Conference teams at the event, with Houston pegged as a 10-seed. In total, 156 players will hit the links beginning Friday at 7 a.m.
SMU ALL-TIME IN THE NCAA POSTSEASON
SMU will be making its 16th appearance in the NCAA Championships and its first since 2005. The Mustangs made three straight trips from 2003-05, with a best finish of 22nd in 2005. SMU has one NCAA title - in 1954, led by Floyd Addington, who took the individual national championship. Prior to the NCAA San Antonio Regional, SMU had been to 11 straight regionals but had not finished well enough to advance in the last seven appearances. SMU tallied five consecutive top-10 national finishes from 1954-58, and then took two more top tens in 1972 and 1973. SMU has not cracked the top 10 since, with a top finish of 12th in 1996, led by Hank Kuehne and current SMU coaches Josh Gregory and Jason Enloe. Last season, senior Mario Clemens won the NCAA Fayetteville Regional to qualify as an individual for the NCAA Championship, where he wound up tying for 16th, earning him All-America status.
SAVING THE BEST FOR LAST
Sophomore Bryson Dechambeau ranks eighth in the nation in final round scoring average with a 69.83. SMU is ranked 39th as a team, averaging a score of 73.26 on the final day. SMU posted a low-round score of 285 (plus-one) in the final round of the American Athletic Conference Championships, clinching the league title. Dechambeau carded a three-under 68 in that round, sealing the individual championships by five strokes.
Sophomore Austin Smotherman recorded his third top-10 finish of the season, tying for fourth at the American Athletic Conference Championships. Smotherman tied for sixth at the Valspar Invitational at Floridian on March 25, and earned a runner-up result at the Royal Oaks Intercollegiate on Oct. 29, finishing at 10-under par. He has carded a total of 12 rounds of par or better this season, and holds an average round score of 72.94. On May 9, Smotherman was named to the All-American Athletic Conference team.
HIGGS AS THE LONE SENIOR
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 127th 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). Higgs also came through with a clutch final round at the American Athletic Conference Championships, carding four birdies over his final 10 holes to help lead SMU to a five-shot victory.
On whether the team reached or exceeded expecations this season... “Every year you expect to reach the NCAA Championships. We were pretty disappointed after last year’s results. We were a good enough team to have gone to the NCAA Championships and we unfortunately fell two shots short. It was our goal to get back, and it’s why I came back to SMU. We wanted to rebuild this program and get it to the point where we are a perennial power each and every year. A win in the conference championship over two of the top-10 teams in the country in Central Florida and Houston and qualifying for the NCAA Championship validated that we are going in the right direction and hopefully we will be a force in college golf year-in and year-out. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t expect it. It would have been a very disappointing year had we not made it.”
On the team’s chances... “I told the kids ‘why not us’; somebody has to win this thing and we’ve proven all year that when we’re good, we can beat anybody. There’s only six or seven teams in the field that we haven’t beaten. Strange things happen at the NCAA Championships. When you get a hot team that believes and can handle their emotions, you never know what can happen. I’d love to look at it like ‘hey, everything is a bonus from here’, but at the same time, that’s not really fair because we have high expectations. In my opinion, it’s an opportunity to go compete for a national championship. As I told my kids, you don’t get these chances very often in your life and when you do, you better take advantage of it and most importantly you better enjoy it.”
LAST TIME OUT - NCAA SAN ANTONIO REGIONALS
After battling for the lead for much of the day, the SMU Mustangs placed fourth at four-over par after the final round at the NCAA San Antonio Regionals at Briggs Ranch Golf Club on Saturday. With the top-five result, SMU earned a berth to the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2005.
“Today is a huge day for SMU golf and a major step for the program,” SMU head coach Josh Gregory said. “I’m so proud of these guys. Today was tough and a grind, and we made it a lot tougher than it should have been, but it’s all about surviving and advancing. We are honored to represent SMU at the NCAA Championships and we cannot wait to compete. Today validates that SMU is becoming a factor in college golf.”
Sophomore Bryson Dechambeau was SMU’s top-finishing individual, tying for seventh at two-under par. Fellow sophomores Ryan Burgess and Austin Smotherman were SMU’s top two players on Saturday, with each carding two-over 74s in the final round. Smotherman posted three bogeys on holes 2-4, but rallied back with five birdies between holes 5-14.
Freshman Andrew Buchanan moved as high as eighth on the leaderboard after starting out two-under through six holes, but he would eventually fall back to three-over for the round. earning him a 19th-place result. Burgess and senior Harry Higgs tied for 21st at three-over for the tournament.
No. 6 Georgia won the event by 13 strokes over Georgia State. No. 19 Vanderbilt took third, followed by SMU and No. 18 UCLA. TCU missed the top five by just two strokes, while No. 7 UCF was the highest-ranked team in the field to not advance, taking seventh. Georgia Southern, Charleston and USF rounded out the top 10. TCU’s Julien Brun won the individual title at 10-under par.
SMU was at nine-under par around the halfway point of the day, and led the tournament by as many as two strokes over both Georgia and Vanderbilt. SMU was two-under as a team through eight holes, but ended the day at 10-over.
MUSTANGS EARN ALL-CONFERENCE HONORS
SMU Mustangs sophomores Bryson Dechambeau and Austin Smotherman received all-conference recognition, and head coach Josh Gregory was named American Athletic Conference Coach of the Year, the league office announced on May 9.
Dechambeau, who won the individual conference title by five shots, was a Ben Hogan Award semifinalist and was selected to represent the United States at the 2014 Palmer Cup. The Clovis, Calif., native has seven top-five finishes this season and has carded 18 rounds at par or better. Dechambeau is also eighth in the nation in final-round scoring average (69.83), tallying eight scores in the 60s to end tournaments. Dechambeau is currently ranked 10th in the World Amateur Golf Rankings. Dechambeau also earned all-conference honors last season, landing a spot on the Conference USA First Team and winning Freshman of the Year.
Smotherman had a career-best runner-up result at the Royal Oaks Intercollegiate in October, finishing the event at 10-under par. Smotherman also tied for sixth at the Valspar Collegiate at four-under par and has totaled 13 rounds of par or better golf this season. The Loomis, Calif., native climbed as high as second at the conference tournament before ending with a strong fourth-place finish. Smotherman was a Second Team All-C-USA selection last season.