College golf administrators believe the sport s national championship can be just as exciting to the average sports fan as basketball or football.
That s one reason behind the new format for the NCAA men s golf championships starting Tuesday at Inverness Club. The tournament will run five days, one day longer than before, and the final two days of competition will feature match play to determine the team champion.
The public understands match play, said Darin Spease, senior associate athletic director at North Carolina-Charlotte and chairman of the NCAA selection committee. As we attempt to grow college golf, we have to engage the public in ways that willattract them to watch these great young players. The most anticipated team event in professional golf is the Ryder Cup, and the match play portion creates great drama and edge-of-your-seat tension. College golf can deliver the same compelling action.
University of Toledo men s golf coach Jamie Mauntler agrees.
The normal fan is used to March Madness, a bracket, Mauntler said. They thought going to match play would have more of a March Madness feel.
Stroke play had been used since 1965 to determine the team champion, with the scoring strictly match play for nearly 70 years before that.
Now, after the first three days and 54 holes of stroke play, the individual national champion is crowned. That s also the cutoff point for the top eight teams (out of the 30 that qualified to come to Inverness) for match play.
The quarterfinals and semifinals are on Friday with the championship match on Saturday. To advance to the next round, at least three of a team s five competing golfers have to win their individual matches.
The bracket is similar to basketball s March Madness. The best team in stroke play is matched up against the eighth-best team, second-best team matched against the seventh-best team, and so on. The players ranked first through fifth compete against the respectively ranked players on theopposing team.
College golf coaches are split on whether they like the new format, according to Mauntler. A few of the regular-season tournaments mimicked the format, and Spease said he received positive feedback.
I m OK with change, Mauntler said. It s good to push the envelope and see if it works.