Dick Harmon: NCAA will tweak golf championships if Cougars advance past regional round
BYU golf coach Bruce Brockbank will watch his team tee off in its NCAA regional at Auburn, Alabama, on Thursday, the beginning of a situation in which Sunday play may be a factor. Or not.
The NCAA golf championship committee has organized two different schedules for its 30-team finals — one if BYU happens to advance past the regional round to the national championship and one if the Cougars don't.
The exact plan hasn't yet been revealed, but it has been created, according to Brockbank.
It’s a common discussion with NCAA championships — what to do with BYU on Sundays. Happens all the time, even with the NCAA basketball tournament selection committee.
Interestingly, Brockbank will be on the NCAA golf championship committee next year, where he’ll be able to give firsthand information about what it all means and what avenues might work best for all schools. A key new partner in all of this is the Golf Channel, which needs the programming and is hunting key time slots.
BYU is seeded No. 6 in the Auburn regional. Coincidently, the site is 2 1/2 hours away from the University of Alabama, the defending national champion. The top five teams from each regional advance to Kansas for the finals.
The finals begin May 22 at Prairie Dunes Country Club, hosted by Wichita State, with a Thursday practice round. All 30 teams are scheduled to play Friday, Saturday and Sunday to determine the low eight teams that advance, plus the low 40 individual players. The individual championships will be on Monday, May 26, with team match play Tuesday and Wednesday.
If BYU fails to advance, the no-Sunday play discussion is moot. But, if BYU advances, perhaps the third round will be Monday after all teams have Sunday off to test BBQ and hang out.
“They’ve worked really hard to try and accommodate us with this format. If we make it to the championship, they have a system in place to let us play,” said Brockbank.
He said he will leave it up to the NCAA to explain it — if his team is lucky enough to make it to Kansas.
The bigger controversy in the college golf championship is a return to match play for the team championships.
“We haven’t been in match play for years and it's split right down the middle with coaches who like it and those who don’t. The reason for the change to match play is because of the Golf Channel,” said Brockbank, whose team won its first WCC championship a few weeks ago.
In other Cougar golf news, two of Brockbank’s former stars are making waves as professionals.
Daniel Summerhays tied for 23rd in last weekend’s Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Florida. After 18 events, he has surpassed $1.1 million in earnings. He ranks 35th in FedEx points, ahead of Justin Rose at 36th and Luke Donald at 38th.
Zac Blair, who turned pro a month ago and took off for the PGA’s NEC Series LatinoAmerica Tour, ranks 26th in the Order of Merit on that tour after five events with more than $10,000 in earnings. He will play in the Dominican Republic this week before moving to the Canadian Tour.
Blair, one of Utah’s most dominant amateurs the past four years, took a break after playing in Uruguay two weeks ago and returned to Utah, where he immediately dominated the local professional scene. First, he was the low professional at the Spanish Oaks Open. He then tied Web.com veteran Tony Finau for medalist honors in U.S. Open qualifying at Alpine Country Club.
In South America, Blair was competing on courses in Mexico, Columbia and other countries that he’d never seen before. That he came home as a pro and went 3 for 3 with the state's best moneymakers? Speaks for itself.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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