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Vols Depart for Stillwater
Jim Kelson

Jim Kelson

May 28, 2011

By John Painter
UT Media Relations

Tennessee is officially on its way to Stillwater, Okla., for the start of the 2011 NCAA Men's Golf Championship.

The Vols departed Saturday and are scheduled to take in a couple of practice rounds in advance of Tuesday's first day of competition at Karsten Creek Golf Club, located about 7 miles west of the Oklahoma State University campus.

OSU is the host and No. 1 seed heading into the tournament, which is scheduled for 54 holes of stroke play over three days that narrows the 30-team field to eight quarterfinalists. Those eight teams then begin on Friday a three-day tournament of match play, which concludes with the championship pairing on June 5.

The Vols are seeded 24th in the field after rallying to tie for fourth at the NCAA Central-Indiana Regional last week in Zionsville, Ind. Head coach Jim Kelson says playing the last week of May is simply par for the course.

"You just want to make it every year and that's what we work for, to play in that one tournament," Kelson said. "We've got three big tournaments by which we are judged -- the SECs, regionals and finals. I'm proud of our team to be able to come through, and three years (in a row) -- that's what we want them to do. That's what we want to achieve, to be there year in and year out."

The Vols are making their third consecutive NCAA finals appearance, tying the best run in school history set by the 1980-82 and 1995-97 squads. Only 11 other teams in Stillwater this week can match UT's current streak of three straight trips to the finals.

"It's a challenge to get there," Kelson said. "You've got to play awfully well. Fortunately for us, our guys played really well that last day in Indiana and we're looking forward to the challenge."

Rugged Test
Karsten Creek, which last hosted the NCAA championship in 2003, certainly fits that bill. The Par 72 course measures 7,416 yards of the most rugged test of golf this side of Scotland's famed Carnoustie. Kelson's 2003 Vols -- his first of six at UT to advance to the NCAA finals -- placed 23rd in that championship at a hefty 61 over par.

 

 

Clemson was the NCAA champion at 39 over par.

"It's a really, really good test," Kelson said. "We played there the last time the NCAA finals were there, and it's quite a golf course. It's something else. We like it because ours is typically a very good ball-striking team. All parts of the game have to be good there, and we like it tough. We typically drive it real well and straight, and the rough will be high. Hopefully, that is an advantage."

Check out NCAA.com for an interactive guide to Karsten Creek Golf Club.

Tennessee is scheduled to play Tuesday at 7:50 a.m. and Wednesday at 1:10 p.m., both times Central and both rounds alongside 22nd-seeded Arizona State and 23rd-seeded Ohio State. Live scoring is available each day at UTsports.com via Golfstat.com.

Kelson is sticking with the same five golfers he has used all spring: senior captain Robin Wingardh, juniors Garrick Porteous and Darren Renwick, sophomore Jay Vandeventer and freshman Danny Keddie.

Here are a few notes a quotes on Tennessee's starting five:

Wingardh leads Tennessee in every statistical category and has played particularly well during the Vols' spring surge. Wingardh is first in stroke average (72.06), rounds of par or better (16) and top-10 finishes (5). In fact, the senior captain has finished eighth or better in four of his seven tournaments played since the winter break. Wingardh tied for third at the SEC Championship, bettered only by a second-place effort at Isleworth in October.

Do you like where your game is heading into the NCAA finals?
"Yes, I do. I've been working on a few different things. Obviously I struggled a little bit in regionals, but I knew what I needed to work on and I feel pretty good. All the parts of my game feel good, so I'm just ready to go."

Porteous is second on the squad with a 73.23 stroke average and has been especially strong during NCAA competition. The junior finished fourth at the just-completed NCAA regional after placing 30th and 14th at his first two career regionals. He has placed no worse than 28th since the winter break and tied for a career-best third at the Insperity Augusta State Invitational last month. Porteous owns 10 rounds of par or better among his 30 rounds played.

Is there any carryover from your excellent play in the regional?
"I feel comfortable and confident, just relaxed and ready to get on the road. It's good fun. You would feel like the season's incomplete if you didn't make it to the finals. You just play like you've been playing. Apart from Danny, we've all played in the finals before. It's a tough course and we've all got a chance to do well. It's going to be a fun week."

Renwick is playing his best golf of the season. The junior owns top-25 finishes in four of his last six events, including the recent SEC Championship (25th). Renwick is tied for third on the team with eight rounds of par or better and owns a stroke average of 74.48. His best showing this year was a tie for fourth at the Bank of Tennessee Intercollegiate back in October.

What have you learned heading into this, your third straight trip to the NCAA finals?
"The one thing I know is it's very tough to make that top eight, and that's definitely the goal for the week -- make that top eight and then progress on each day. I feel pretty good. I didn't play great in the regionals, but I left with some positive feelings. (Karsten Creek) is definitely tough, but that's good for our team. The harder the better, that's what we always say."

Vandeventer owns six rounds of par or better and a stroke average of 74.70. The sophomore's best tournament result was a tie for 10th in February's Battle at the Beach. He also led the Vols with a 14th-place showing at the Windon Memorial and was 25th at the recent SEC Championship. This semester, Vandeventer has carded four top-40 finishes in seven events.

Do you have good memories of playing previously at Karsten Creek?
"Yes, I've got a few. I remember the golf course and as long as we keep it in the fairway and on the greens, we should be good. It was the Ping Invitational, probably my junior year in high school, and I'm looking forward to going back. We know it's going to be tough, but we knew that from the get-go. Everybody's got to play the golf course, and hopefully we can play better than everybody else."

Keddie joined the Vols this semester and made an immediate impact. His last three finishes have been sixth, sixth and seventh at the Insperity Augusta State Invitational, SEC Championship and NCAA Central-Indiana Regional, respectively. He placed 10th in his debut collegiate event at the Battle at the Beach in February. The freshman is third on the team with a 73.62 stroke average and eight of his 21 rounds have been played in par or better, including team season-low 66s at the Augusta State tourney and NCAA regional.

What have you teammates told you about playing in the NCAA finals?
"Everyone says how great a tournament it is, that it's one of the best tournaments you'll ever go to. I'm just really looking forward to going and playing. I don't try to see them any different; I just try to see it as the same thing, as playing golf. I enjoy the atmosphere when I'm not actually playing, when I arrive and after I've finished my rounds and on the practice day and stuff. But when the tournament's going, it's still just another tournament."

Seeding for the 2011 NCAA Men's Golf Championship:

1. Oklahoma State
2. UCLA
3. Alabama
4. Georgia Tech
5. Florida
6. Augusta State
7. San Diego State
8. Texas A&M
9. Illinois
10. LSU
11. Texas
12. Georgia
13. Iowa
14. Duke
15. Michigan
16. Southern California
17. Arkansas
18. California
19. San Diego
20. North Carolina State
21. Oklahoma
22. Arizona State
23. Ohio State
24. TENNESSEE
25. Kent State
26. Kennesaw State
27. Pepperdine
28. Northwestern
29. Arizona
30. Colorado State

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