May 16, 2012
BY JOHN PAINTER
PALO ALTO, Calif. -- Tennessee knows it has at least one local supporter on hand when the NCAA Stanford Regional starts here Thursday.
Angharad Porteous, sister of UT senior captain Garrick Porteous and a first-year Ph.D. student at Stanford University, walked the course with the Vols during Wednesday's practice round sporting her Big Orange colors and offering a few tips about the 6,727-yard, par-70 layout.
Angharad says she plays the Stanford course once or twice a month when time allows, and she played it alongside her brother during his December visit.
"Yes, he played here during Christmas in anticipation that it might happen," Angharad said. "We knew the chances of him playing here for regionals were 1-in-6, so everyone in the family was really excited when it turned out the way it did."
None more so that Garrick, who seems to perform at his best in the postseason spotlight.
The Vols senior finished 30th, 14th and fourth during his three previous NCAA regional appearances, along with a 38th-place result in the elite 150-player field at the 2011 NCAA Championship Finals. Last month, Porteous tied for seventh at the SEC Championship and he leads the Vols in scoring average (72.55) by more than a stroke.
"It was really exciting when we found out we were coming to Stanford, and my sister was excited too that's for sure," he said. "It's a bit of a coincidence because I was out here at Christmastime just visiting and we played it, on the off-chance that we would be here.
"It's a little different now. The rough's up a bit and it's obviously lusher and greener. The greens are running good, though."
Angharad caddied for her brother last year during final British Open qualifying, but this is her first time seeing him play a collegiate tournament.
"I watched him play the Home Internationals last summer in Ireland when England won, and I caddied for him in final Open qualifying," Angharad said. "He's very good, and he doesn't mind who's on his bag. I find it much more stressful than he."
And certainly more so than her school experiences have been.
"What's not to love about Stanford? It's an amazing place," she said.
Porteous owns the anchor position for Thursday's opening round, hitting the first tee at 9:39 a.m. Pacific time as the fifth and final Tennessee golfer to begin play.
UT is seeded eighth here this week and needs a top-five finish to advance to the NCAA Championship Finals for a fourth consecutive year. Last year, the Vols were seeded sixth at the Indiana Regional and rallied from seventh place entering the final day to tie for fourth.
"Definitely the chance to get to the NCAA finals is always uplifting," Porteous said. "I'm sure the guys will be raring to go to win this thing or get top-five. And, no, I'm not worried about the seeding. It's on the day - anything can happen."
Lamb spent his first two collegiate seasons just 20 miles south of here at Santa Clara, but the junior lefthander says there are nuances to the Stanford Golf Course that don't reflect most Bay Area layouts.
"This course is a little different than a lot of the courses in the area," he said. "It's not as much in the hills -- maybe a few holes on the back nine. It's definitely a different course and I like it a lot."
Lamb is coming off his two best tournaments and is up to third on the team with a 74.15 scoring average. He won the Yale Spring Opener for his first collegiate victory and then finished sixth at last month's SEC Championship after challenging for that title as well.
"I've just done the same things I was doing before SECs, working a lot on my short game - putting especially," he said. "I played the Holston Hills Invitational and the U.S. Open qualifier a couple of days after that, but I've kept it pretty simple."
This week marks Vandeventer's fifth collegiate tournament in California. The first four have been successful and now the Vols junior has another good feel heading into Thursday's opening round, which begins at 9:17 a.m. Pacific time.
"I love it," he said. "Conditions are great, the layout is awesome - everything about this golf course is going to be suitable for us.
"It's not overly tough but it's not easy. You've got to hit good shots. If you hit the fairways and your iron game's pretty good, you can make some birdies. But it's challenging in the rough around the greens."
Vandeventer as a freshman finished 58th at the Battle at the Beach and then was 39th at the NCAA San Diego Regional. He's registered 10th-place results at the 2011 Battle at the Beach and this year's San Diego Intercollegiate.
All of those tournaments have been in Southern California, but now the northern end has his full attention.
"It's a good atmosphere out here, something a little different," he said. "You get a taste of some different golf, a little different weather. Every tournament I've had out here has been pretty good.
"I'm looking forward to playing here and trying to get back out here. That would be good."
If the Vols can advance out of this regional, the NCAA Championship Finals are set for May 29-June 3 at famed Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles. And Vandeventer also has a chance to qualify for the U.S. Open, which takes place next month at Olympic Club just up the road in San Francisco.
Vandeventer led U.S. Open local qualifying last week at Knoxville's Holston Hills Country Club, shooting a bogey-free 65 to advance to the sectional round. It's the last hurdle before the U.S. Open itself.
"That would be pretty cool, but it's one step at a time," Vandeventer said. "That's the mindset I had at Holston and I've brought it out here, to be a little more carefree and not get overly emotional on the golf course.
"I didn't really have anything to lose in the qualifier. I went out there and just had fun with it, and I learned a lot from that. Just have fun with it and you play a lot better golf doing it that way."
Vandeventer is second on the team with a 73.93 scoring average and leads the squad with 11 rounds of par or better.
Keddie tied for seventh at last year's NCAA Indiana Regional, helping the Vols rally from nine strokes down on the final day to advance to the NCAA Championship Finals.
"It's nice to be back at this tournament, having memories of playing regionals last year and playing pretty well," said Keddie, who tees off Thursday at 9:06. "My game feels good."
Keddie owns a pair of top-five finishes this year but the spring has been unsteady for the England sophomore.
"I haven't played as well as I have wanted to this semester, but I've tried to relax the last few weeks and take a couple of days off," he said. "Everything's simpler now. I've calmed it down and I'm back to enjoying golf a bit more. That's what I'm going to do this week; just go out and enjoy it."
Keddie couldn't be happier that the Vols were selected for the far western outpost among the six possible regional sites. And he's especially giddy to have another go in the NCAA tournament.
"I don't think you could beat where we are now, obviously out here in San Francisco," he said. "I learned a lot about myself and my game this semester. I've been working hard and I've been getting better. It hasn't paid off yet but I feel like I'm ready to go out and play well."
The Vols don't have any freshman golfers on the roster this year, but Farragut's Brandon Rodgers has earned the chance to make his NCAA regional debut beginning Thursday at 8:55 a.m. Pacific time.
His initial impressions?
"The golf course is great," Rodgers said. "It's going to fit us well. It's a tough driving course and that's pretty much our strong suit, so we're looking forward to getting out there and playing."
Rodgers has competed in six of seven tournaments since breaking into the Tennessee lineup to start spring semester. The sophomore's best finishes were 10th at the Yale Spring Opener and 19th at the John Hayt Collegiate. He was 32nd at the San Diego Intercollegiate, and sounds excited to be back in California.
"This is what any Division I golfer lives for, to come out here and compete," Rodgers said. "We think we're a top-25 program and we think we're better than our seed, so we've got to go and prove it."