SANTA CLARA, Calif. – A successful seven-month stretch has Santa Clara men's golf prepared for its first appearance in the NCAA Championships in 12 years.
The Broncos, winners of three tournaments in 11 starts during the season, open play in the Raleigh, North Carolina regional, one of six across the nation, on Monday at NC State's Lonnie Poole Golf Course.
The Raleigh Regional is one of three with 14 teams and five individuals. The other three have 13 teams and 10 individuals. Participants will play 18 holes a day with each regional concluding on Wednesday on the par-71, 7,273-yard course.
The top five teams and the No. 1 individual not on one of the advancing schools from each regional will play in the NCAA Championships, which will be held May 25-30 at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
Georgia Tech is the top seed, Cal No. 2 and Texas third in Raleigh. The Wolfpack are sixth.
"Unfortunately, NC State adds another team that will be tough there," head coach Rob Miller. They're ranked 36th in the country so that makes another team ahead of us that will be a challenge to beat. We'll have to beat the eight teams that are ranked ahead of us, including five obviously really strong teams that are ranked in the top 30, plus the home team.
Georgia Tech is ranked No. 4 and Cal ninth by Golfstat. Texas (16), Arizona State (21) and Duke (28) are in the top 30. Liberty (40) and Missouri (45) are also ranked ahead of No. 51 Santa Clara.
MGOLF | Head coach Rob Miller, senior Hayden Shieh and junior Derek Ackerman discuss the selection of @SCUgolf for the @ncaa Championships (2nd time in program history �� �� ��) #SCUBroncos #StampedeTogether #NCAAGolf pic.twitter.com/oaWeYZzN1d— Santa Clara Broncos (@SCUBroncos) May 3, 2018
The Broncos strong start in the fall helped propel them into the NCAA field. They won two of their first three tournaments and was second in the other one.
Santa Clara will utilize the same lineup as the latter half of the season with Hayden Shieh, Derek Ackerman, Matt McCarty, Zack Kaneshiro and Jack Avrit making the trip to Raleigh, along with Will Delbiaggio who will serve as the alternate.
"We started off really strong," Miller said. "It was really surprising how well we played in the fall quite honestly. We got some really top play from Hayden and Derek continued to play well after finishing last year strong. But probably our biggest surprise was we had a couple freshmen come in, Zack Kaneshiro and Jack Avrit who played really well and solidified the bottom of our lineup."
VIDEO | As the team preps for its first @NCAA Championships appearance in 12 years, coach Rob Miller of @SCUgolf discussed the bright future of the #SCUBroncos who won 3 tournaments this season. #StampedeTogether #NCAAGolf pic.twitter.com/DPcU5Odk4U— Santa Clara Broncos (@SCUBroncos) May 12, 2018
Shieh posted a team-best 70.42 stroke average and McCarty was second at 71.12, edging Ackerman (71.64).
Shieh (77), McCarty (147) and Ackerman (231) are each ranked among the top 250 individuals in the nation by Golfstat.
The Broncos are one of five West Coast Conference programs to advance this year. They are joined by Pepperdine, BYU, San Francisco and Saint Mary's. None of the four were placed in the Raleigh regional.
SECOND TIME IN THE NCAA REGIONALS
Santa Clara made one other appearance in the NCAA Regional. The Broncos competed in the 2006 NCAA West Regional in Tucson, Arizona, where they finished 21st among the 27 teams.
FOUR STRAIGHT NCAA TRIPS FOR SHIEH
A three-time, first-team All-WCC selection, Hayden Shieh will be making his fourth appearance at the NCAA Regional, but first with the Broncos. The last three years Shieh, who has three career victories, competed as an individual. "I think what Hayden learned was that this event is really a team event," head coach Rob Miller said. "It really is not individual oriented, which is why only six individuals make it from regionals into nationals." Shieh's best showing was a 28th-place finish at the 2016 NCAA regional in Albuquerque, New Mexico with a 12-over 228.