East Tennessee State coach Jake Amos isn’t afraid to dream big. That’s why he has his team riding high heading into the NCAA Men’s Golf Championship.
The Bucs, brimming with confidence after winning their NCAA regional, begin the national tournament on Friday at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Amos unabashedly says the team’s goal is to come home with the national championship.
“Honestly, that’s why I came here,” he said. “I’ve won one as a player and I want to win one as a coach. We want to win it. There’s a lot of golf to go, but it’s nice to have a chance.”
Amos has been talking that way since he took over the program. In fact, during one of his first team meetings, he asked the players if any of them thought they could win a national championship like he did at Augusta State.
“Only a couple of people raised their hands,” he said. “I explained the process why I think we can do it. Slowly and with a lot of work, they began to get that self-belief.
“That’s the goal, to win it. But we have to make sure to focus on the present. If you start thinking about the end game, you won’t get there.”
The Bucs pushed themselves into the discussion with a dominating victory in the Cle Elum Regional in Washington, where they beat a stellar field by 10 strokes. They joined Oklahoma State, Texas, Vanderbilt, Florida State and Texas Tech as regional champs.
ETSU, making its first NCAA Championship appearance since 2008, will be grouped with Little Rock and San Diego in the first round. The Bucs are ranked 45th nationally in the Golfweek poll.
WHY THEY HAVE A CHANCE
Golf can be such a fleeting game, but one look at the Bucs when they are at their individual best indicates they might be a force to be reckoned with if the stars all align properly.
Their top four payers — Archie Davies, Trevor Hulbert, Shiso Go and Jack Rhea — have all gone low in tournaments. Davies, Go and Rhea have shot at least one round of 63 in college, and Hulbert has a 64 to his credit.
The talent is there, it’s just a matter of putting it all together on the game’s biggest stage. And golf is the one sport in which ETSU routinely knocks off teams from the power conferences.
“They’re pretty confident,” Amos says of his players. “Winning the SoCon and regionals, if they weren’t confident I’d be worried. We have to mix that confidence with a little bit of discipline and focus. I think if you go in there with arrogance, confidence won’t do it. We have to do what we did in that last two events — be focused, be committed and do the right things.”
Three rounds of stroke play will be held Friday through Sunday with the top 15 teams advancing to one final stroke play round Monday. The individual champion will be determined through the 72 holes of stroke play.
After that, the top eight teams will square off in match play to determine the team champion. The quarterfinals and semifinals are Tuesday and the championship match Wednesday.
Golf Channel is all in once the tournament gets started. Coverage is set for Monday (5-9 p.m.), Tuesday (noon-2:30 p.m. and 5-9 p.m.) and Wednesday (5-9 p.m.)
Bob Papa will handle the play-by-play duties with Curt Byrum adding his analysis and Steve Burkowski in the tower. Jim “Bones” Mckay, Billy Ray Brown and Notah Begay will be on the course with commentary.
Kingsport’s William Nottingham is back in Clemson’s lineup for the NCAA Championship.
The fifth-year senior missed a tournament down the stretch so he could try to qualify for the PGA’s McKenzie Tour. Zach Gordon, his replacement, finished third.
Gordon took Nottingham’s spot in the lineup for the next two tournaments, the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship and the NCAA regional.
Nottingham has played 129 career rounds and 43 tournaments. He holds the Clemson record for the lowest individual round, a 62 he shot his freshman year at the Irish Creek Invitational in Raleigh, North Carolina.
LAST NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP
With no NCAA golf being played last year because of the pandemic, Stanford would be the defending champion.
The Cardinal won the 2019 title at The Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Arkansas, beating Texas 3-2 in the match play final. Oklahoma State’s Matthew Wolff won the individual title by five strokes.