May 14, 2014
AUBURN, Ala. - The UC Davis men's golf team makes its first appearance in the NCAA Championships since 2012 when it opens play in the NCAA Auburn Regional on Thursday, looking to advance to the national finals for the first time as a Div. I program.
The Aggies, who finished second in the Big West Conference, are in the regionals for the fourth time since 2009 but are doing so as an at-large team for the first time. Their other three berths came after they captured conference championships.
UC Davis is seeded 11th in the 14-team field and will open the 54-hole tournament beginning at 7:10 a.m. (PDT) while playing with UNC-Greensboro and Sam Houston State. Thunderstorms are expected in the area on Wednesday afternoon with showers and a possibility of thunderstorms on the horizon for Thursday morning. Partly cloudy skies are expected the rest of the day.
The regional teams have converged on Auburn University Club where they will face off against the par-72, 7,326-yard course that sits on rolling hills and woodlands. The regional is one of six taking place this weekend with the top five teams on the leaderboard after Saturday's final round - along with the top two individuals not on an advancing team - moving on to the NCAA Finals in Hutchison, Kan., in later May.
The NCAA Auburn Regional features a deep field of talented teams. Top-ranked and defending national champion Alabama carries the No. 1 seed and is joined by four other teams in Golfstat's top 25 - No. 12 Virginia, No. 13 Texas, No. 23 Auburn and No. 25 New Mexico. The remaining teams, in seeded order, are No. 36 BYU, No. 37 Kennesaw State, No. 48 Colorado, No. 49 Louisville, No. 60 UNC-Greensboro, UC Davis, Sam Houston State, St. John's and Alabama State. Five individuals were placed in the regional as well.
UC Davis coach Cy Williams, in his 19th year leading the Aggies, is undaunted by UC Davis' seed nor the task in front of his squad, which is ranked 62nd.
"We're going back there to create UC Davis history, to be the first UC Davis men's golf team to make the NCAA Finals," he said. "We can do it. Rankings don't matter anymore, it's just the teams that play the best. At probably almost every regional site, the qualifiers will not be the five highest-seeded teams. We've got the talent, we've got the performances this year and we've got the work ethic.
"We'll have a great practice round at Auburn and see how we do," he added.
Seniors Matt Hansen and Joshua Granger, sophomores Luke Vivolo and Ben Corfee, and redshirt freshman Nicolas Noya will comprise the Aggie quintet at the regional. Hansen, who's averaging a team-best 70.2 strokes and has played his last five rounds at 14 under, has won his last two tournaments - the El Macero Classic in April and the Big West Championship two weeks ago.
Hansen, who along with teammate Luke Vivolo has advanced to U.S. Open sectional qualifying, is a first-team All-Big West honoree and is no stranger to NCAA success after winning the Tucson Regional as a freshman in 2011. Sophomore Ben Corfee earned All-Big West second-team honors and is second on the team in scoring (72.6).
Vivolo has two top-10 finishes in his last five tournaments, including a third-place showing at the tough Bandon Dunes Championship. Granger and Noya have been especially valuable to the Aggies this spring. Granger has a pair of 13th-place finishes while Noya, who didn't make his Aggie debut until February, was sixth at the El Macero Classic and ninth at the Big West Championship.
UC Davis won Big West titles in 2009, 2011 and 2012, moving on to the NCAA Regionals, each time.
Other regional sites this weekend are at San Antonio, Texas, Raleigh, N.C., Sugar Grove, Illi., Eugene, Ore., and Columbia, S.C.