Bulldogs comfortable playing close to home in NCAA golf championships

Fresh off its best finish of the spring and on a course it knows well, the Georgia men’s golf team is looking for its first national title since 2005.

The Bulldogs begin play at the Capital City Golf Club’s Crabapple Course in Alpharetta for the NCAA championship today a little more than two weeks removed from their runner-up finish at the NCAA West Regional in Tempe, Ariz. The tournament opens with three rounds of stroke play followed by three days of match play. Only the first three rounds of stroke play are guaranteed.

The Bulldogs feel right at home on a course they play each year, including in September when they finished eighth in an NCAA preview event, and said they hope to feel at home on a course 60 miles from their own.

“It’ll be great, and hopefully we’ll have more fans than anyone else,” Georgia junior Joey Garber said. “We’re playing on grass we’re used to and on a golf course we’re used to. It’ll be a big advantage for us, and we’ll just have to play solid like we did [at regionals] and see what happens.”

The Bulldogs’ finished tied with UCF in second place at 13-under par in Tempe. UCLA rolled to the title at 30 under, but the competitive finish gave Georgia something to build on at the NCAA tournament.

“The season’s been a little bit up and down, but we feel very confident coming off last week playing well and on a golf course we know well,” Georgia coach Chris Haack said. “We played there at the beginning of the year, and we feel pretty good about it.”

The regional was the team’s best finish since it won the Brickyard Collegiate Championship in Macon in October and showed some competitive mettle as the Bulldogs improved their team score each day even as UCLA pulled away from the field.

“Those guys did a good job of really staying patient, staying in the moment and not giving up on it,” Haack said. “We just seemed to rise to the occasion when the chips were down.”

The Bulldogs carry in a 72.70 individual scoring average and are seeded 12th, and Haack said the performance at the regional tournament showed the team is playing its most consistent golf of the season — an element it will have to carry over if it hopes to find success against the country’s best teams.

“The one thing I’ve always said about this team is that every given week somebody is always playing well,” Haack said. “But what we need is for everybody to do it at the same time. Top to bottom, I know what they’re capable of doing. But if you only have one or two guys doing it, you’re in trouble.”

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