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Published: Saturday, 5/23/2009

Elite field chases title

BY ZACH SILKA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Hoffmann Hoffmann
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There s no Tyler Hansbrough and this isn t the Final Four, but that doesn t mean there aren t a great collection of teams and individuals headed to Toledo to compete in the NCAA Division I men s golf championship this week.

If you re looking for a No. 1 seed, look no further than Oklahoma State, led by the No. 1-ranked amateur player in the world, Rickie Fowler.

Other than claiming the South Central Regional title, the Cowboys also won the Ping-Golfweek Preview at Inverness Club in September by 16 shots.

Oklahoma State freshman Morgan Hoffmann quickly made a name for himself as the diaper dandy in the college golf world by tying Tennessee s Robin Wingardh for medalist with a 6-under 207 at Inverness in his first career start.

Hoffmann has managed to keep rolling, ranking third nationally in the Golfstat Cup standings with a 70.23 adjusted scoring average.

The Cowboys have also been able to maintain their elite level, with the victory at the regional marking their third straight team win and fifth overall this season. Sophomore Kevin Tway became the fifth different Oklahoma State player to win a tournament, firing a 2-under 70 in the final round to finish at even-par 216.

Not far behind Oklahoma State is Georgia.

The Bulldogs, who entered the postseason ranked No. 1 in the country, were upset by tournament host Central Florida at the Southeast Regional, but still managed to finish tied for second with a late surge.

Georgia fired a 12-under 272 on the last day of the regional, as all five Bulldogs were in the 60s and each finished the tournament under par the only team in the field to accomplish that feat.

The Bulldogs have advanced to the NCAA championships in 15 of the 20 years since the regional format was introduced, including 12 of the last 13 seasons under coach Chris Haack.

Senior Brian Harman leads Georgia with a 72.33 scoring average, while sophomore Russell Henley (72.48), sophomore Harris English (72.48) and junior Hudson Swafford (72.63) are right on his heels.

Also keep an eye on defending national champion UCLA. The 19th-ranked Bruins surprised the field and won the Central Regional title to earn their seventh straight berth in the NCAA championships.

UCLA played the last 36 holes of the regional at Olde Stone Golf Club in Bowling Green, Ky., in 5-under par, giving the Bruins their first tournament victory of the season and their third regional championship in the last seven years.

Senior Erik Flores and freshman Gregor Main, who possess scoring averages of 72.30 and 72.70, respectively, lead the Bruins.

The Pac-10 Conference led all others with seven teams advancing out of regional play. Joining UCLA from the conference will be West Regional champion Arizona State, Washington, Arizona, Stanford, Oregon and Southern Cal.

Closely trailing the Pac-10 is the Southeastern Conference with six bids. In addition to Georgia, representing the SEC will be Northeast Regional champion Alabama, Southwest Regional champion Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas and South Carolina.

The Big Ten was next with five bids, with Ohio State, Michigan, Northwestern, Illinois and Iowa making the field.

The top-seeded individual is Kyle Stanley, whose Clemson team failed to advance. He is the second-ranked U.S. amateur behind Fowler and plans to turn pro after the NCAA tournament.

Contact Zach Silka at:zsilka@theblade.com.



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