May 22, 2009
Team chemistry for the Tennessee men's golf squad didn't just happen; it took careful crafting from a tried and true source: Van rides.
"The van rides are more fun than playing in the tournaments." said junior David Holmes, who last week nearly led Tennessee to the NCAA Northeast Regional championship with a second-place individual showing. Holmes fired a final-round 67 to finish at even par, while the Vols placed second and advanced to the NCAA Championships for the fourth time in seven years.
Toledo's Inverness Club is the site starting Tuesday for 30 teams to take their shots at a national title. Just don't expect UT to alter its routine from the previous 11 tournaments.
"The van rides, dinners, hotel rooms - we actually chose to drive (to Toledo)," Holmes said. "We could have flown, but we chose to drive because it's so much fun. We've got a TV, so we're set."
The Vols also have the mindset of being one of eight teams to advance through three rounds of stroke play into this year's new format -- match play. The top eight teams after 54 holes are seeded 1 through 8 for a match play tournament, the first two rounds taking place next Friday and the championship pairing set for May 30.
"I think we're in a good place," UT head coach Jim Kelson said. "I think coming off a good tournament, hopefully we've built up some confidence. So I think we're doing the right things and now it's just up to one last championship and one last shot. I like where we are and we'll see what happens at Inverness."
The Vols led after each of the first two rounds of the NCAA Northeast Regional in New Jersey, only to be passed by SEC-rival Alabama on the final day. But Tennessee's strong showing jumped the Vols from 20th to 12th in the latest Golfstat rankings.
"We definitely haven't peaked yet," senior Chris Paisley said. "We still haven't had a tournament where everyone's played great at the same time. NCAAs definitely will be the best field, but our having played well there in the fall helps. When you go back, that always helps because you have good memories and you feel good when you are there. That can only help us."
Tennessee played the Inverness Club back in late September, finishing second at the Ping/Golfweek Preview Invitational. Sophomore Robin Wingardh tied for medalist honors in that event and plans to take a level-headed approach in returning to the legendary layout.
"I think it works both ways," Wingardh said. "Of course, I played well there. But you also might put a little higher expectation on yourself and I don't know if that's good or bad. But I feel good about it. It feels good to know you can compete on that golf course."
The Vols have been competing inside the nation's top 20 practically all season, and now have a chance to make their mark on the Tennessee golf history books. Only the 1980 and 1981 Vols finished in the top 10 at NCAA nationals, and UT under Kelson has had showings of 23rd, 11th and 16th in the recent odd-numbered years.
"Everybody's thinking this is a brand new day and it's a new championship," Kelson said. "It's our national championship. The regional has been put behind us. We're excited about playing in this one. We had some success up there in the fall and I certainly don't think that can hurt anything. We've just got to stay healthy, get up there and enjoy the experience and see what we can do."
After Monday's practice round, Tennessee begins the championship Tuesday at 12:59 p.m. Eastern time on the 10th tee. Wednesday, the Vols start on the No. 1 tee at 7:47 a.m. UT is paired the first two rounds with Arkansas and Washington.
Kelson is sticking with his NCAA regional lineup of Paisley, Wingardh, Holmes, Darren Renwick and Garrick Porteous. Paisley said the balanced lineup may be coming together at just the right time for the Vols to make some noise when it counts the most.
"It would have been good to put the icing on the cake with a win (last week), but we can take a lot of positives from it. That's probably the best tournament we've had as far as everyone playing well as a team, everyone doing their part. It shows that through our hard work, everyone's starting to come around."
And starting to really appreciate those valuable chemistry lessons, like the one scheduled this week along Interstate 75 North.
2009 NCAA DIVISION I MEN'S GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP -- FIRST-ROUND PAIRINGS (Toledo, Ohio)
1st Tee, 7-7:38 a.m. -- Central Florida, Oregon, Texas Tech
1st Tee, 7:47-8:25 a.m. -- Northwestern, Ohio State, Virginia
1st Tee, 8:35-9:13 a.m. -- Duke, Iowa, Michigan
10th Tee, 7:20-7:58 a.m. -- Arizona, Chattanooga, Texas
10th Tee, 8:07-8:45 a.m. -- San Diego, TCU, Wake Forest
10th Tee, 8:55 a.m. -- Individual qualifiers
1st Tee, 12:30-1:08 p.m. -- Arizona State, Georgia, UCLA
1st Tee, 1:17-1:55 p.m. -- Georgia Tech, Illinois, Texas A&M
1st Tee, 2:05 p.m. -- Individual qualifiers
10th Tee, 12:12-12:50 p.m. -- Alabama, Florida, Oklahoma State
10th Tee, 12:59-1:37 p.m. -- Arkansas, TENNESSEE, Washington
10th Tee, 1:47-2:25 p.m. -- South Carolina, Southern California, Stanford
TENNESSEE START TIMES & THUMBNAILS -- Tuesday, 10th Tee
12:59 p.m. -- No. 5 Garrick Porteous was a factor for the Vols in last week's NCAA Northeast Regional, finishing 30th in just his second tournament as a member of the Tennessee lineup. He owns a 74.42 stroke average for 12 competitive rounds, with his best showing a tie for 26th as an individual at the Wolf Pack Classic in October. Porteous followed that with a tie for 46th at The Ridges Intercollegiate, then cracked the Vols lineup and tied for 65th at the Administaff ASU Invitational. NCAA Scorecards: 2009 regional 74-73-80--227 (30th).
1:09 p.m. -- No. 4 Darren Renwick had quite the debut at last week's NCAA Northeast Regional, finishing a career-best seventh after challenging for the top spot all weekend. He was one of eight selections to the Freshman All-SEC squad thanks to catching fire in spring, turning in three top-20s in a four-tournament span. Included was a ninth-place showing at the Arizona Invitational, helping boost his season stroke average (74.10) to rank seventh among league freshmen and 34th overall in the SEC. NCAA Scorecards: 2009 regional 71-72-77--220 (7th).
1:18 p.m. -- No. 3 David Holmes nearly captured medalist honors at last week's NCAA Northeast Regional, finishing second by one stroke (see score below). He carries a season average of 73.30 that ranks 24th in the SEC and has carded nine rounds of par or better, including his final-round 67 at the regional. A solid No. 3 in the lineup all season, Holmes' runner-up finish in New Jersey was a career best. He tied for 31st at the recent SEC Championships, shooting 75-74-73--222. NCAA Scorecards: 2007 regional 84-78-78--240 (100th); 2007 finals 80-77-71--228 (156th); 2008 regional 82-74-78--234 (102nd); 2009 regional 73-73-67--213 (2nd).
1:27 p.m. -- No. 2 Robin Wingardh gained 2009 All-SEC second team recognition, and Chris Paisley and he already have been tabbed for the 2009 Palmer Cup's European side. Wingardh's 72.79 stroke average ranks 11th in the SEC, and he has finished outside the top 20 just once since early February, seven tournaments ago. He claimed his first collegiate title at the Ping/Golfweek Preview Invitational at Toledo's Inverness Club back in September. Wingardh also led the Vols with a 16th-place individual showing at the recent SEC Championships. NCAA Scorecards: 2009 regional 80-72-75--227 (30th).
1:36 p.m. -- No. 1 Chris Paisley was named to the 2009 All-SEC first team, and Robin Wingardh and he already have been tabbed for the 2009 Palmer Cup's European side. Paisley stands eighth in the SEC with a 72.45 stroke average and ranks 57th nationally according to Golfweek/Sagarin. He leads the team with 15 rounds of par or better and was medalist at the Arizona Invitational, one of five top-10s this season. He was Golfweek's Feb. 9-13 National Player of the Week. NCAA Scorecards: 2006 regional 79-72-74--225 (59th); 2007 regional 80-72-74--226 (21st); 2007 finals 71-75-75--221 (102nd); 2008 regional 78-76-76--230 (41st); 2009 regional 78-70-76--224 (19th).
Head Coach Jim Kelson (On his team's mindset) --
"I think we're in a good place. I think coming off a good tournament, hopefully we've built up some confidence. I've really felt good about what our players have been doing all year long. We've had a pretty darn good year. We've had a couple of tournaments where we didn't perform like we wanted to, but on the other side of the coin we've had tournaments where we performed very, very well and finished second four times this year. And those were against very, very strong fields. So I think we're doing the right things and now it's just up to one last championship and one last shot. I think we are preparing well this week. I like where we are and we'll see what happens at Inverness."
(On taking positives from the NCAA Regional but also striving for more)
"Everybody's thinking this is a brand new day and it's a new championship. It's our national championship. The regional has been put behind us. We're excited about playing in this one. We had some success up there in the fall and I certainly don't think that can hurt anything. We've just got to stay healthy, get up there and enjoy the experience and see what we can do."
(On similarity between trying for top five at regionals and trying for match play at the finals)
"Yeah, I think it really is. I didn't really look at it like that but, sure, that's what everybody's trying to do is to get into the elite eight and get into match play. Then it's a whole new ballgame."
(On Tennessee's preference for the new match play final-eight format)
"I think that would be an advantage for us. I don't how much of an advantage it is, although we've got to get there first. But I think it is an advantage for us. Everyone is excited about going up and playing well and competing."
Chris Paisley (On his play in the NCAA Regional) -
"It was very mixed. I had some really good spells and some rough spells. In the second round I played really well and put in a good score for the team, but came up short a little bit in the other two rounds. The main thing was we made it through. The team played great. It would have been good to put the icing on the cake with a win, but we can take a lot of positives from it. That's probably the best tournament we've had as far as everyone playing well as a team, everyone doing their part. Garrick played great; going into the last round he had a chance to win. It shows that through our hard work, everyone's starting to come around."
(On the state of his overall game)
"It's getting better. I haven't played quite as well the last two or three tournaments, but my results have improved each one and I feel like my game is coming around. If you finish in the top 20, you know you're playing solid. Obviously I'd like to be a little higher, but I'm improving and that's good."
(On the upcoming NCAA Championships)
"We definitely haven't peaked yet. We've played well, but we still haven't had a tournament where everyone's played great at the same time. NCAAs definitely will be the best field. All the teams are geared to play well at the end of the season. It's going to be our toughest challenge, but we've worked really hard and we showed at regionals we can compete with anyone. Our having played well there in the fall helps. When you go back, that always helps because you have good memories and you feel good when you are there. That can only help us."
(On his role as the team's lone senior)
"I usually lead by example, but one thing to focus on is not to treat this tournament any different. We prepare the same so it feels like just another tournament. That's usually the key. Sometimes people can build it up to be such a big deal that you get freaked out. We just prepare the same way, do all the same things and go in with the same attitude and hopefully we will play well."
Robin Wingardh (On bouncing back from the SEC Championships) -
"I think last week was so good because we had such a bad week at SECs, everybody was talking about how bad we did. We pretty much proved that we can play real well and that what happened at SECs was a one-time thing. We don't usually play that badly and we showed that at regionals."
(On the NCAA Regional)
"Our main goal was to make it to finals, although as a team we always want to win. After the second day, when we felt that no matter what we did we were making it to finals, we wanted to win. We didn't make it, but we reached our main goal and that's the most important thing."
(On returning to the Inverness Club, where he won medalist honors in the fall)
"I think it works both ways. Of course, I played well there. But you also might put a little higher expectation on yourself and I don't know if that's good or bad. But I feel good about it. It feels good to know you can compete on that golf course."
(On trying to qualify for match play)
"We have a lot of Europeans and we play more match play tournaments in Europe. We don't have college golf, but growing up we play a lot of team tournaments. If we reach match play, we have a very good chance of winning this thing. Everybody has to play their best, of course; there are some good teams up there. But we can do it."
David Holmes (On the NCAA Regional) -
"It was a great week. It's always fun when you're in the hunt. When you're a couple spots from last - SECs was not fun for us, so it was a good turnaround. I played great. I didn't hit it necessarily great, but I putted well and kind of got it in the hole. It was fun."
(On trying to make it to match play)
"If the top eight advance, you never shoot for eighth. I think if you set a high goal, maybe to win the stroke play rounds, then eighth should be very doable. In the back of our minds, it's obviously our goal to get top-eight."
(On returning to the Inverness Club)
"I think it's a huge advantage that we played there in the fall. We only get one practice round and it's 30 teams in a shotgun start on one course. So having already played the course, we already know where the trouble spots are and we have a course book. It's not going to be as difficult for us to figure out how the course is playing that week. And we did well (back in September), we finished second. That's also a huge confidence builder. We know we can play well."
(On the difference from regular season tournaments to NCAA play)
"Maybe your focus is a little more intense because you know this is it right here. It's more about the preparation. For a bigger tournament, you're going to be more focused in practice just because you know what's coming. I think it's all about the preparation, really."
(On the team's chemistry)
"It's so much fun. I'm going to miss it when I leave. What's the best part about it? Van rides. The van rides are more fun than playing in the tournaments. The van rides, dinners, hotel rooms - we actually chose to drive (to Toledo). We could have flown, but we chose to drive because it's so much fun. We've got a TV, so we're set."
Darren Renwick (On the NCAA Regional) -
"It was a really fun tournament. I can't really put my finger on it, but it had a different feel to it than other tournaments we've played this year. Maybe it was because all the teams were just trying to get into the top five. Anyway, it was really fun. The course was unbelievable, probably the best course I've ever played. The conditions were really good for us because it's quite a tight course and you needed to be straight off the tee, and all our players are really straight off the tee."
(On playing again at the Inverness Club)
"I'm really excited. It's going to be so good. Again, that's a tight course with thick rough just off the fairways. If we can just play a similar game to what we did last week, we should be in pretty good form."
(On trying to qualify for match play)
"First of all, try to get in that top eight and see where it goes from there. We have four Europeans on our team who play a lot of match play at home, whereas the people here don't play as much match play. So we should have as good a chance as anyone if we can get into match play. It's going to be really exciting."
(On the upcoming NCAA Championships)
"We're just treating it as any other tournament. Since we finished classes we have been practicing really hard and really focused. Our practices have been really good."
(On the team's chemistry)
"We have such a good atmosphere on this team and have such a great time. I enjoy it so much. I absolutely love it here."
Garrick Porteous (On his play in the NCAA Regional) -
"I played pretty well the first two days. I had a couple of holes that didn't go my way, but overall the past few weeks of practice have gone pretty well. It helps because I have struggled this past year with my putting, but last week as so much better. That really helped toward my performing the way I did. Last week was just phenomenal, especially first day it was playing so hard. It was playing tough. You couldn't really miss a fairway or you were chipping out sideways because it was so tight. And the wind was blowing about 20-25 mph. It was brutal."
(On the upcoming NCAA Championships)
"It's going to be good, but it's not going to be easy. I think we've got confidence going into this week. If we could make the match play at the end of the week it would be great."