No. 21 SMU To Begin Season At Olympia Fields Invitational
Sept. 11, 2013
OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. (SMU) - The SMU Mustangs will travel to their first event at the Olympia Fields Country Club/Fighting Illini Invitational hosted by Illinois on Friday.
The tournament is the beginning of what SMU Head Coach Josh Gregory hopes is a very successful season for the Mustangs. Last season, SMU was ranked in the top 20 for much of the year and had a trio of runner-up finishes. Gregory looks to help guide his team to wins and NCAA Championship success this season.
"To be ranked in the top 20 all year while playing as many as four freshmen in events was a great accomplishment," Gregory said of last season's squad. "This year we will need to learn to win. We just need to learn how to close the deal and win. We will be more experienced this year, so that should help."
SMU placed ninth at Olympia Fields a year ago, and improving on that result won't be easy for the 21st-ranked Mustangs. Seven other top-25 teams are in the field, including No. 1 Alabama, No. 3 Baylor, No. 7 Arkansas, No. 8 Oklahoma State and No. 9 Stanford.
"It's a great way to start the year," Gregory stated. "It's perhaps the best field in all of college golf at a world-class venue. We will find out real fast where we stack up."
SMU's 2013-14 schedule takes them all over the United States and to a pair of popular vacation destinations (Rio Grande, Puerto Rico and Cabo, Mexico). SMU will play tough teams all season long, which Gregory believes will make his team better.
"We play a very, very demanding schedule, top 10 in the country," Gregory said. "We need to prove we can beat these caliber of teams to be considered one of the elite teams in college golf. This schedule and more experience should make us better prepared for an NCAA run."
SMU's lineup for the weekend consists of three sophomores (Bryson Dechambeau, David Lee and Austin Smotherman) and a pair of Higgs (senior Harry Higgs and freshman Alex Higgs). Alex will make his first collegiate appearance. Dechambeau was Conference USA Freshman of the Year in 2012-13 and was also named to the PING All-Central Region Team. Smotherman was a Second Team All-C-USA honoree while Lee received All-Freshman recognition.
Gregory feels this group and the rest of his roster will help the Mustangs reach the highest level of college golf, and he thinks the present, as well as the future, is bright.
"I'm very excited to coach this team," Gregory said. "We have spent two years reshaping the culture of SMU golf, making us a legitimate national program. With our current players and the addition of Trinity Forest, I am very excited about the future of SMU golf."
Gregory knows that to for his team to reach the pinnacle they aim for, they need to win. And although wins evaded his program a season ago, the coach knows his team is ready and capable for the challenges ahead.
"I have high expectations of this team, as the guys do," Gregory said. "They have a lot to prove after narrowly missing the NCAA's last year. We simply need to make our bad rounds better. Our good rounds are as good as anyone's, we just usually had a bad stretch of holes or rounds that kept us from winning.
"It's been almost 10 years (2005) since SMU's last trip to the NCAA's. It's time to start a streak of NCAA Championship trips."
Tournament: Eighth-annual Olympia Fields Country Club/Fighting Illini Invitational
2012 champion: Arkansas (854, +14)
Low Team Round: 275, Oklahoma State, 2007
Low Individual Round: 63, Rickie Fowler, 2007
Best 36-Hole Score (team): 559, Stanford, 2011
Best 36-Hole Score (individual): 133, Rickie Fowler, 2007
Best Final Score (team): 845, Florida, 2010
Best Final Score (individual): 203, Rickie Fowler, 2007