For the first time in a decade, the Virginia Tech golf team will advance to the NCAA Men’s Golf Championship, held from May 29 through June 3 at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Ca.
The Hokies finished in fourth place at the NCAA South Central Regional in Bowling Green, Ky. this past weekend to advance to the national tournament.
“Normally a couple guys play well and someone has a rough week, but this time we all really came together at the right time to advance,” said senior Blake Redmond.
Freshman Scott Vincent finished tied for third overall in the regional, which was his best overall finish as a college player and one of the better finishes for Tech all year.
“We started playing better at the end of the year and peaked at the right time,” said sophomore Bryce Chalkley. “The course (at regionals) really played in our favor and we just ground it out.”
The team has been building towards this success all season, as it’s only finished outside the top seven of one tournament all year and has finished ahead of many highly ranked teams.
“We’ve been beating top 25 teams all year and it shows that we’re a lot stronger than people might think,” said Jay Hardwick, head coach. “We’re still a young team, but I think we showed something this weekend.”
This is the team’s first NCAA tournament berth since 2002, and team members are excited to represent Tech on the national stage.
“This has been one of our goals all year long since we only missed it by three strokes last year,” Chalkley said. “We lost two seniors from last year’s team, but the freshmen have come in with great passion and helped us out.”
The team has come close to making it back to the tournament for several years, so it’s a big step for it to finally break through.
“We’ve made the regionals six years in a row, so we’ve gotten really close,” Hardwick said. “We may be just one of thirty teams to make it, but it’s still a huge accomplishment for us.”
Competing for a national title is especially meaningful for the seniors on the team.
“Going out on the national tournament in my last year means a lot, especially because of how prestigious the course is,” Redmond said.
The Riviera Country Club does certainly have plenty of history, as it has hosted three PGA Tour major championships over the years, and will pose a unique challenge for the Hokies.
“We’ll definitely have to prepare to deal with some different grasses, since they’ve got stuff out there that we don’t have on this coast,” Hardwick said.
Despite the difference in terrain, the team insists that its preparation will remain largely the same.
“Even though it’s the national championship, we’re going to prepare for this like it’s any other tournament,” Redmond said.
While much of the team’s practices will stay the same, the fact that it’s summer will help the team concentrate on performing well.
“It helps that we’re not in school and go and practice so much more,” Chalkley said. “It gets the team out of the school environment and really lets us focus on golf.”