UNCG returns to Pinehurst hoping for similar success
UNCG at Pinehurst Intercollegiate, March 11-13, Pinehurst No. 6, Pinehurst, N.C.
By Rob Daniels
The UNCG men's golf team returns to the site of one of its best performances of 2010 when it participates in the Pinehurst Intercollegiate this weekend. Led by medalist Robert Hoadley, the Spartans tied for third in the event and hope for similar results in 2011 on Pinehurst No. 6 from March 11-13.
"This is like our unofficial spring golf tournament," coach Terrance Stewart said. "All of our kids have played this course. If we can make some putts, I expect us to have a chance to win it."
Several Spartans have played No. 6 outside of college. Will Almand and Kyle Sonday were in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Class 4A tournament on No. 6 while teammates at Green Hope High School in Cary, N.C.
Hoadley, who grew up in nearby Southern Pines, N.C., played it before and after its 2005 redesign.
MORE ABOUT NO. 6: George Fazio designed the original No. 6 in 1979, and his son Tom Fazio undertook the renovation plans, which took shape after the Pinehurst Resort hosted one of the most successful U.S. Opens in history in 1999. This weekend's track is not as internally renowned as Pinehurst No. 2, the Donald Ross course that has hosted several USGA championships, but it is considered a serious test of all skills. It is expected to play at its Gold specifications of par-71 and 6,990 yards.
THE FIELD: UNCG (63 miles) is the closest of the 16 participants to Pinehurst. The event is largely regional, but Western Illinois and Michigan State are making the trip. The only opponent common to Pinehurst and UNCG's season-opening event in Puerto Rico is Virginia Tech, which finished ahead of the Spartans last month.
IN PUERTO RICO: UNCG was ahead of four Big Ten programs entering the final day of the 72-hole Puerto Rico Classic, but struggles in the last 18 holes knocked the Spartans to 14th in the 15-team field. UNCG finished ahead of East Tennessee State and was led by Hoadley, whose score of 220 tied him for 40th among all individuals.
SHORT AND SWEET: A year after leading the nation, the Spartans are off to another solid statistical start in the categories amalgamated under the "Short Game" designation by golfstat.com. Among them are putts per round, putts per green in regulation and sand-save percentage. UNCG ranks in the top 15 nationally in seven of the eight categories and stands 14th overall.
Last season, UNCG ranked first in the combination of the short-game stats and has been in the top 6 nationally in three of the past six years overall. The success, Stewart said, stems from the team's practice habits, in which at least 90 minutes per day are devoted to chipping and putting from various inhospitable locations around the green.
HOADLEY CUT BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: Last month, Hoadley, an All-Southern Conference player as a freshman, was named one of 12 semifinalists for the prestigious Sullivan Award, given by the Amateur Athletics Union to the nation's top amateur athlete across several disciplines. Hoadley did not make the cut as one of the five finalists, but there's evidence to suggest his candidacy was well received by a national audience.
An unspecified part of the selection process involves a public vote, and the AAU said this week that Hoadley placed sixth out of the 12 candidates in USA Today's online balloting. The organization declined to reveal vote totals or the total 1-12 breakdown, but finishing in the middle of the pack means he outpolled at least half the field.
"It was a great process and a great thing for the university," Stewart said.
Hoadley was nominated and selected as a semifinalist for the combination of his golf skills; community service through the First Tee of the Sandhills; and Chancellor's List academic performance in the university's nationally acclaimed Bryan School of Business and Economics.
Along the way, Hoadley's honor was featured on two Golf Channel programs and an ESPN-affiliated radio show.
SPARTANS IN THE RANKINGS: By virtue of their competition in the elite Puerto Rico event, the Spartans moved up from 86th to 78th in the national team rankings on golfweek.com. UNCG is second among Southern Conference schools in the survey, trailing No. 52 Chattanooga.
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