The USF men's golf team has been selected to compete in the NCAA Regionals in San Antonio, Texas, from May 15-17.
The teams in this year's regional, in order of seed best to worst, are: Georgia, Central Florida, UCLA, Vanderbilt, USF, SMU, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, TCU, Northwestern, College of Charleston, VCU, and Columbia. Also competing are ten individual golfers from teams that didn't make the NCAA field.
The Bulls are the #5 seed in the 13-team regional. This is meaningful, because the top five teams advance to the NCAA championship finals in Hutchinson, Kansas. Without looking it up, I'm pretty sure this is the first time a USF team has ever been seeded to reach the national championship-level event in any sport.
Which the team nearly did last season. They won the 2013 Big East Championship, went to the NCAA Regionals in Tallahassee, and erased a four-stroke deficit on the last hole, only to lose a playoff hole to Oklahoma.
This season, the Bulls followed a strong fall season with an up-and-down spring. The team finished 2nd, 5th, 2nd and 1st in fall tournaments, with star Chase Koepka winning two individual titles. But after peaking at #14 in the national rankings, they finished 10th, 2nd, 2nd, and 12th in spring events, and then 4th in the American Athletic Conference tournament. Head coach Chris Malloy lamented the team's lack of depth, saying after the AAC Tournament:
"I'm happy with three of our scores, but unfortunately we have to count four. We didn't have that fourth today and we've struggled with that this year, especially this spring."
Also, USF won't have an advantage they had last year. Coach Malloy was familiar with last year's regional course, the Golden Eagle Golf & Country Club in Tallahassee, from his days as an assistant at Florida State. Of the Briggs Ranch Golf Club in San Antonio, Malloy said "we'll find out more about the course this week, but I'd compare Texas to Florida in terms of conditions."
Malloy has worked miracles for USF's historically unsuccessful golf program. Before last season, USF had only made one NCAA regional at the Division I level, and that was in 1987. The Bulls have now qualified two straight seasons, continue to attract impact players, and have an amazing new facility.
Next season, the NCAA Men's and Women's Golf Championships will be at The Concession in Bradenton, and hosted by USF. If you want to see the Bulls compete for a national championship before you die, that could be a great opportunity.