FOREST OAKS, N.C. - Some of the best in collegiate men's golf will descend on Forest Oaks Country Club beginning Thursday for the 2009 UNCG Bridgestone Golf Collegiate.
With 12 teams ranked in the top 100 in this season's field, the UNCG Bridgestone Golf Collegiate, in its fifth year, is bigger and better than ever. In the newest rankings released Wednesday by Golfstat, eight of the 15 teams - more than half of the field - are ranked in the top 50 amidst the 286 teams in Division I. Tennessee is ranked No. 12, Augusta State is ranked No. 16, Duke is at No. 21, Virginia is No. 26, Virginia Tech is ranked No. 30, VCU comes in at No. 37, and North Carolina comes in at No. 42. Three more teams - Michigan, Minnesota and Michigan State - fall just outside of the top 50.
Augusta State's Patrick Reed is expected to be the top-ranked player in the field, coming at No. 7 overall and No. 5 in Division I in this week's individual Golfstat rankings. Minnesota's Ben Pisani is rated No. 37 among all of college golf, while Virginia's Ben Kohles sits at No. 41 and Georgia Tech's J.T. Griffin is No. 43.
"From the outset, we have wanted this tournament to be one of the premier in the country," said UNCG men's golf coach Terrance Stewart. "Without the assistance of the membership and staff at Forest Oaks, along with the folks at Bridgestone Golf, we couldn't continue to draw stronger fields each year. With more than half of the field ranked in the top 50, I think we've outdone ourselves again. For the golf enthusiast, this will be quite a weekend."
This is the first year that the tournament will actually be played over a weekend, having previously been played with practice rounds on Sunday and beginning tournament play on Monday. After serving as a spring tournament in 2005 and 2006, the tournament moved to October in 2007, serving for many teams as the final stop on their fall schedules.
Activities get underway on Thursday when the UNCG and Duke teams will take part in a college-amateur beginning at 12 noon. Friday's practice rounds will be a shotgun start at 1 p.m. Two rounds will be played on Saturday with teams starting in a shotgun format at 8:30 a.m. Sunday's final round will have tee times going off of Nos. 1 and 10 starting at 8:30 a.m.
Admission is free and the public is welcome. Complete tournament information is available at www.uncggolfcollegiate.com, including live scoring for those unable to attend.
Each year, the tournament field seems to grow stronger. Last year, Louisville, Mississippi State, Duke, Michigan State, Memphis, Michigan and Pepperdine played in the tournament - all of which had advanced to the NCAA tournament the previous year.
The tournament will once again be played at the scenic Forest Oaks Country Club, past home of the PGA Tour's Wyndham Championship. The site of a PGA Tour stop for 31 years beginning in 1977, Forest Oaks plays at more than 7,000 yards. Originally opened in 1962 and built by Ellis Maples, the course underwent a redesign by Davis Love III in 2002.
So while the championship tees and fairways have been positioned to move the turns in the doglegs to a distance that can challenge the 300-plus yard drives of the touring professionals, the members' tees have been positioned to make cutting those doglegs well within reach of the double-digit handicapper.
Some have said the greens are so smooth, you would want to remove your shoes. There is one thing professionals and members alike can both agree on - the conditioning of the fairways and greens is superb. A couple of years ago, the course underwent renovations. The fairways were re-sprigged with Tift Sport Bermuda grass, a strain that handles the extremes of summer heat and winter wetness better than the old local strains. As a result, the fairways can be cut lower and smoother than ever before. The new greens have been planted with a mix of A4 and A1 bentgrass, which offers a faster and truer surface than the old Penn Links bentgrass.
Coddled and nurtured year-round under the supervision of Matt Ayer and Bob Simmons, Forest Oaks' golf course superintendents, the fairways are so well-groomed that some new members are reluctant to take divots. In fact, player satisfaction is so high that the readers of Golf World magazine give it a rating of 4.7 out of a possible 5.0.
Where teams rank entering the tournament according to
Golfstat (listed alphabetically, out of 286 teams):
16. Augusta State
38. Georgia Tech
104. Michigan State
42. North Carolina
57. Notre Dame
30. Virginia Tech
Top Individuals in the Golfstat Cup (Top 150 ranking
among all NCAA Divisions, NAIA and junior colleges)
7. Patrick Reed, Augusta State
37. Ben Pisani, Minnesota
41. Ben Kohles, Virginia
43. J.T. Griffin, Georgia Tech
89. Robin Wingardh, Tennessee
91. Matt Thompson, Michigan
108. Henry Zaytoun, North Carolina
t-114. Adam Long, Duke
t-114. Wes Roach, Duke
121. Darren Renwick, Tennessee
130. Lanto Griffin, VCU
149. Adam Sumrall, Duke
- UNCG -