May 14, 2008
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - On Wednesday afternoon, the Navy golf team will get its first look at the Gold Mountain Golf Club in Bremerton, Wash., the host site of the 2008 NCAA Div. I Men's Golf West Regional set to begin on Thursday morning. The Mids are among the 27 teams who will battle it out for the right to advance to the NCAA Championship slated for May 28-31 on the Kampen Course at the Birck Boilermaker Golf Complex in West Lafayette, Ind. The three-day, 54-hole tournament will begin each day at 7:00 am PT / 10:00 am ET. The Mids will tee off on Wednesday at 7:47 am PT / 10:47 am ET alongside Columbia and Denver.
Navy, who earned an automatic berth into the tournament by way of winning the 2008 Patriot League Championship, is among a talented group of golfers who make up the 2008 NCAA West Regional field. Among the teams and individuals heading to regional are the defending NCAA team champion (Stanford), the defending NCAA individual champion (Jamie Lovemark from USC), and last year's NCAA runner-up - Clemson's Kyle Stanley. Additionally, the regional features 15 teams ranked in the Top-50 of the latest Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index - No. 3 USC, No. 4 UCLA, No. 7 Stanford, No. 10 Florida State, No. 15 UNLV, No. 18 Clemson, No. 19 Arizona State, No. 24 Texas Tech, No. 30 North Carolina, No. 33 Texas, No. 35 Pepperdine, No. 37 San Diego State, No. 41 LSU, No. 42 California, and No. 44 Oregon State. The regional field also includes six conference champions in Florida State (ACC), Arizona State (Pac-10), San Diego (West Coast), Denver (Sun Belt), Navy (Patriot League) and Columbia (Ivy League).
Navy, who will make its 10th NCAA Tournament appearance, has earned the right to play in the national tournament via winning the league championship on four previous years. Under the direction of 18th-year head coach Pat Owen, the Mids earned tournament bids in 1998, '00, '01, '03 and now in '08. Navy's best finish under Owen was in 1998 when the Mids placed 19th among the 23-team field at the Melrose Golf Course in Hilton Head, S.C.
The Midshipmen are certainly no strangers to heading out West, as each of their last three NCAA Tournament appearances have been on the West Coast. In 2000, team captain Drew Craig led the Mids to a 24th-place showing at the Riverbend Golf Club in Fresno, Calif. A year later in 2001, Nick Rogers, who is now the JV officer representative for the Navy golf team, paced the Mids en route to a 25th-place finish at the Trysting Tree Golf Course in Corvallis, Ore. And in 2003, Navy's last NCAA Tournament appearance, team captain Brian Crum and All-American Billy Hurley tied for 27th as the Mids finished 23rd in the tournament held in Auburn, Wash. at the Washington National Golf Club.
The West Regional is loaded with talent, but Navy was fortunate enough to play in the Sycuan Collegiate Invitational last October, as well as the River Landing Intercollegiate a month ago to help give the team a feel for some of the elite golfers in the country.
The Mids will be led by an experience group of golfers, including the senior tandem of team captain Chris Renninger (Darnestown, Md.) and Erich Schoen (Sylvania, Ohio). Schoen was named the 2008 Patriot League Most Valuable Golfer after capturing the individual title at the league's championship tournament in late April. The All-Patriot League golfer owns the team's low average at 75.3 and has placed among the top 20 five times this season, while posting four top-10 finishes.
Renninger, meanwhile, is a two-time All-Patriot League selection who heads into his first NCAA Tournament appearance boasting a 76.9 stroke average. The two-time Patriot League Men's Golf Scholar-Athlete of the Year has competed in all 10 tournaments alongside Schoen where he has three top-20 performances.
Juniors David Miller (Chillicothe, Ohio) and Ryan Wielgus (Bethesda, Md.) are coming off solid performances in the conference tournament, as well. Miller garnered All-Patriot League kudos after finished fifth in the tournament with an 18-over par 234. While it was his first top-five finish of the 2007-08 campaign, he has placed among the top 20 twice this year. Among the eight events in which he has competed, Miller owns a 78.3 average.
Wielgus missed a good portion of the spring battling a hand/wrist injury, but looks to be hitting his stride at the right time. Just missing the top 10 at the conference championship (12th, +24 240), Wielgus returned to the links in late April for the Navy Spring Invitational in Annapolis. He placed 14th in his first competition of the spring season, helping lead the Navy Gold squad to the tournament title.
While all five Navy players will make their first NCAA Tournament appearance, Ben Hayes (Carmichael, Calif.) has earned his way in just his rookie campaign. Hayes, who owns the second-lowest average on the team with a 75.8, has played particularly well in his last two tournaments. He became the first freshman under Owen's watch at Navy to win an individual title when he shot a 3-under par 139 to claim medalist honors at the Navy Spring Invitational. He followed up with a third-place effort at the Patriot League Championship where he was named the league's rookie of the year.
Twenty-seven teams and six individuals have qualified for each of three regional tournaments - the West Regional, the Central Regional (Scarlet Golf Course in Columbus, Ohio) and the East Regional (Council Fire Golf Club in Chattanooga, Tenn.) - and will be held May 15-17. Ten teams and two individuals, who are not a part of the 10 qualifying teams, will advance out of each of the three regionals to the championship finals. The championship will be played May 28-31 on the Kampen Course at the Birck Boilermaker Golf Complex in West Lafayette, Ind.
### Go Navy ###