UNCG at Puerto Rico Classic (hosted by Purdue), Feb. 20-22, Rio Mar CC, Rio Grande, Puerto Rico
By Rob Daniels
After a few weeks of conditions inhospitable to golf, the weather around the Triad has started to cooperate. While UNCG men's coach Terrence Stewart can't thank anybody personally for that, he'd like to express his gratitude in general terms as his team prepares for the Puerto Rico Classic.
"We're going to walk into a brutal field, but we're ready to play," he said this week.
Indeed, 13 of the nation's top 50 teams will take to the River course at the Rio Mar Country Club, about 20 miles east of San Juan. The Spartans finished last in the 15-team event a year ago but eagerly accepted a chance to return when another program's withdrawal elevated them from first alternates to participants. In 2010, UNCG appeared to benefit from the level of play when it claimed a third place and a victory in the two events immediately following Puerto Rico.
"Whether we're first or toward the bottom, it's a tremendous opportunity for us," Stewart said.
No. 1 Oklahoma State and 10th-ranked Texas are the headliners, but the supporting cast includes several teams the Spartans will see over the course of the season.
UNCG heads southeast – Puerto Rico's time zone is one hour ahead of EST – shortly after the news that sophomore Robert Hoadley is a semifinalist for the prestigious Sullivan Award, granted since 1930 to the nation's top amateur athlete. The Amateur Athletic Union bestows the distinction for a combination of athletic achievement and character. The competition is open to men and women in dozens of sports, and Hoadley is one of 12 semifinalists on a list that includes Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton of Auburn and Olympic gold medalist Evan Lysacek (figure skating.)
"It's definitely an honor to be associated with those people at this point," said Hoadley, a member of the All-Southern Conference team as a freshman last year. His resume includes academic excellence and volunteer work with the First Tee chapter in the Sandhills of North Carolina.
The Spartans finished in the top half of the field in three of six events in the fall and are 83rd among the 300 Division I teams in the golfweek.com rankings. In the SoCon, they trail only No. 55 Chattanooga. A relatively young team, UNCG has no seniors and anticipates contributions from juniors Will Almand and Colin Chapman and sophomores Hoadley and Justin Clement and freshman Andy Knox.
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