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Published: Sunday, 5/31/2009

Inverness sparkles: Event draws high marks from officials

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
AND MAUREEN FULTON
BLADE SPORTS WRITERS

It was 65 years between NCAA golf championships at Inverness Club. It shouldn't be nearly as long before the next one.

The club and everything about the six-day tournament that ended Saturday with Texas A&M's team championship drew rave reviews from the NCAA.

Asked if the organization would be interested in returning should Inverness and the University of Toledo elect to submit another invitation, Darin Spease, the chairman of the NCAA men's golf committee, said: "That goes without saying. It's not an if so much as a when."

UT athletic director Mike O'Brien said the school "would welcome this tournament back to Toledo. And I haven't heard one negative comment."

Spease certainly didn't offer any.

"It's a championship golf course, just a super venue," he said while watching A&M and Arkansas slug it out for the title. "Everyone has been so hospitable. Look at the crowd and the excitement around this last match. It's everything we could have envisioned. These two teams aren't exactly local, but look at all these people.

"We had 156 young men come here, and 150 of them left without a title, but they all had a universally great experience."

Jon Miller, president of Inverness, said the event "certainly exceeded my expectations on every level. This was a great tournament, and the stewards of this club are committed to providing a great venue for great golf events."

Inverness has been the site of four U.S. Opens, two PGA Championships, a U.S. Amateur, and will stage its second U.S. Senior Open in 2011. It previously hosted the NCAA championship in 1944, when Notre Dame won the team title.

FAMOUS GUEST: Inverness bills itself as a place where legends have walked, and another was added to the list yesterday.

Frank Broyles, who led Arkansas to the 1964 college football championship, was on hand to watch the Razorback golfers bid for a national title of their own.

By his retirement at the end of 2007, Broyles had served the Hogs as coach, athletic director, or both for nearly five decades. He spent 19 years as head football coach, compiling a 144-58-5 record, winning seven Southwest Conference titles, and recording a perfect 12-0 mark in '64.

"I was in Las Vegas for an old-timers thing and followed the team's progress," Broyles said. "When I got home last night, I found out we were in the finals and then Jeff [current AD Jeff Long] called and said he had a seat for me on the plane this morning. So here I am. I wouldn't have missed it."

Broyles, who was clad in a bright red sweater and bucket hat, is an avid golfer who "plays all the time."

What is his handicap?

"I'm 84 years old; that's my handicap," he said, laughing.

BIG HIT: Texas A&M's Matt Van Zandt, a wisp of a guy, caught the perfect bounce off the downslope in the eighth fairway and had his drive run 367 yards until his ball stopped just short of the creek.

As he was surveying his second shot on the par-5 hole, an NCAA rules official pulled up on a cart.

"Did he have to punch out?" the official asked.

No, he was told, that was Van Zandt's drive.

The official laughed and said, "Somebody better tell him we're doing drug testing."

UT TIES: O'Brien gave Arkansas coach Brad McMakin his first coaching job.

O'Brien was the athletic director at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, from 1993-97. In 1996, O'Brien hired McMakin as the men's golf coach.

"It was obvious Brad was going to be a star," O'Brien said. "He has great rapport with the young players. The first time I met him I knew that Brad was special."

McMakin spent 10 years at Lamar, taking the Cardinals to five consecutive NCAA regionals and the NCAA championships in 2006. He left the school for Arkansas shortly after that trip.

"For him to be vying for a national championship gives me great pride," O'Brien said. "It's a lot of fun."

DOMINATION: Texas A&M junior Andrea Pavan won his final two matches handily and took down two hot players in the process. In the Friday semifinals, he defeated Michigan's Alexander Sitompul 8 and 7, and yesterday he beat David Lingmerth 7 and 6.

Pavan said he fixed something, although he wasn't sure what, in the midst of his quarterfinal match. Although he lost that one, he gained some momentum for the rest of the tournament.

"I was struggling all week with my ball striking," said Pavan, a native of Italy. "I was missing a lot of fairways. Yesterday morning I played bad on my front nine and then got back my good feelings.

"I just started hitting great shots. It was a lot of fun. Today it was the same. I just played my game and worried only about myself. The earlier I could end it, it would give confidence to the team to have an early point."



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