Bulldogs Ready For NCAA Southeast Regional
ATHENS, Ga. --- The No. 1-ranked Georgia men’s golf team will officially begin its quest for a national championship when the Bulldogs open play in the NCAA Southeast Regional.
The Bulldogs will play Thursday through Saturday at RedTail Golf Club in Sorrento, Fla. The top five teams from each of the six national regionals will advance to the NCAA Championship May 26-30 in Toledo, Ohio. Georgia has won five tournaments this season, but the regional is the only way to qualify for the NCAAs.
“There’s no margin for error in this one,” Georgia coach Chris Haack said. “But the good news is our team has a lot of experience and has been there and knows what it takes at this stage of the season. I have always said this is the most nerve-racking tournament that we have, but our guys are confident in their ability and will go into this one focused on taking care of business.”
Haack will use a lineup of seniors Brian Harman and Adam Mitchell, junior Hudson Swafford, and sophomores Harris English and Russell Henley. Dating back to last season, that quintet has been together for 19 tournaments, including a whopping 21-shot win in last year’s NCAA East Regional. Harman, Mitchell, Swafford, English and Henley have won five tournaments together, including last month’s SEC Championship.
“We all believe in each other,” Mitchell said. “We know we can count on the rest of the guys. In the last two years, we’ve meshed well together. We are all comfortable with each other.”
The Bulldogs will be joined in the Southeast Regional by No. 10 South Carolina, No. 14 Indiana, No. 17 (and host) Central Florida, No. 26 Florida State, No. 33 Augusta State, No. 36 Arizona, No. 42 Kentucky, No. 49 Georgia Southern, No. 59 Iowa, No. 60 Georgia State, No. 72 Charlotte, No. 118 Campbell and No. 216 Loyola College.
Tee times, pairings and live scoring from the Southeast Regional can be found at golfstat.com.
GEORGIA IN THE REGIONALS
Georgia will be making its 20th appearance in the NCAAs since the regional format was introduced for the 1989 season. The Bulldogs have moved onto the NCAA Championship 14 out of the previous 19 years, including 1999 and 2005 when they won the national title.
Under Coach Chris Haack’s watch, the Bulldogs have been selected for a regional each of his 13 seasons. Georgia has moved onto the NCAA Championship each of the last 11 seasons, missing out only in his rookie season of 1996-97. Haack led Georgia to East Regional titles in 2007 and 2008.
Michael Morrison (2000), Brendon Todd (2007) and current Bulldog Russell Henley (2008) have garnered medalist honors at regionals.
PRETTY CLOSE STATISTICALLY
Since taking over as coach of the Georgia program before the 1996-97 season, Chris Haack has preached about the importance of depth and balance in team golf. This year has been a perfect example of his pronouncements.
Senior Brian Harman leads the Bulldogs with a scoring average of 72.33, followed by sophomore Russell Henley at 72.43, sophomore Harris English at 72.54, junior Hudson Swafford at 72.63 and senior Adam Mitchell at 73.25. That means that Nos. 1 and 5 are separated by less than a stroke per round on average. Harman and Henley have four top-10 finishes each and the others have three apiece.
“We all hit the ball well, so it’s just a matter of whose week it’s going to be,” Mitchell said. “It’s awesome to have five guys that you can count on. When we play really well together, it’s hard to beat us.”
“All five guys are hitting it well right now, but that’s the way the season has gone,” Haack said. “We’ve been pretty consistent top to bottom, and it’s a good thing to have them bunched up together like that. It’s a pretty evenly balanced group. If they play well at the same time, it’s a lot of fun.”
CLOSING IN ON HISTORY?
The Bulldogs are entering the NCAAs with an opportunity to match the school record for wins in a season.
Georgia has won five times this year taking titles at the Brickyard Championship, the Isleworth Invitational, the Puerto Rico Shootout, the Linger Longer Invitational and the Southeastern Conference Championship.
The 2001 team won six tournaments and the 2006 squad matched that figure. With five wins already, the 2009 Bulldogs are tied with the 1978, 1982 and 2007 teams with the second-most wins in a season.
Russell Henley (Isleworth) and Hudson Swafford (Puerto Rico) both have earned medalist honors this season.
HAACK NOTCHES 41ST VICTORY
The SEC Championship was the 41st team title for Georgia under Coach Chris Haack’s watch. Haack’s predecessor, Hall-of-Famer Dick Copas, led the Bulldogs to a school-record 44 tournament victories from 1971-96.
Since Haack took over the Bulldogs for the 1996-97 campaign, he has led Georgia to at least one win in 11 of the 13 seasons. His 2001 and 2006 teams set the school record for single-season wins of six, while he also guided the 2007 Bulldogs to five victories. His current Bulldogs also have five wins.
Haack has piloted the Bulldogs to six conference titles among his 41 wins and has produced 48 All-SEC selections and 25 individual medalists.
HARMAN KNOWS HOW TO WIN
Senior Brian Harman has been a mainstay in the Georgia lineup throughout his collegiate career. Harman has missed just one college tournament, and that was because he was invited to participate in a PGA Tour event.
Harman also knows how to win. He has been a part of 19 team tournament titles. That’s almost half of Coach Chris Haack’s 41 in 13 seasons, making Harman the winningest golfer of the Haack era and possibly in Georgia history. He also has earned medalist honors twice in his career.
“Brian has been a very big part of our success at Georgia,” Haack said. “He has been a very steady player, and we would not have the numbers we have without him. He’s having a solid senior season, and we’ll be leaning on him as we move forward.”
Harman leads the Bulldogs with a 72.33 scoring average.
DOGS OPEN POSTSEASON WITH SEC TITLE
Georgia won the SEC Championship last month, giving the Bulldogs 27 league titles in their storied history. That is the most of any golf team in the SEC and the most of any athletic squad at Georgia.
Playing at Frederica Golf Club on St. Simons Island, the Bulldogs claimed the SEC title with a 15-under 849, winning by 13 strokes over Arkansas.
“It always feels great to win,” senior Brian Harman said. “This will give us a lot of positive momentum heading into NCAAs.”
The Bulldogs placed all five golfers in the top 15, including Harman in fourth and sophomore Harris English in fifth.
“We never expected it to come this easy for us,” Georgia coach Chris Haack said. “In the past, the great teams that I have had were the teams that were strong top to bottom. Having all five guys finish in the top 15 shows how strong we are in every position. Our high man in the second round was our low score in the last round, and that depth is what it takes to win championships.”
CONFERENCE CALLS FOR BULLDOGS
Georgia’s Brian Harman, Hudson Swafford, Harris English and Russell Henley were named First-Team All-Southeastern Conference by the league’s coaches.
Adam Mitchell earned Second-Team All-SEC honors, meaning the five members of the lineup picked up conference recognition. In addition, Rob Bennett was selected for the SEC Community Service Team.
“I am very proud of all these guys,” Georgia coach Chris Haack said. “They have worked so hard and they represent the university well in everything they do from golf to academics to community service. This All-SEC recognition is well deserved by all of them.”
Harman earned First-Team All-SEC honors for the third time in his career, while Swafford made the First Team for the second time. Mitchell was a First-Team selection and English and Henley were Second-Team picks a year ago.
Bennett, who is redshirting this year and is not playing, is an active member of Georgia’s Student-Athlete Advisory Council, which coordinates and participates in various community service projects in the Athens area.
MITCHELL TO PLAY FOR PALMER CUP
Senior Adam Mitchell has been selected to participate in the Palmer Cup for Team USA for the second straight year.
The annual Ryder Cup-style competition between collegians from the United States and Europe will be played June 3-5 at Cherry Hills Country Club in Denver.
Mitchell is the seventh Bulldog chosen to play for Team USA (joining Michael Morrison, Nick Cassini, Erik Compton, Ryan Hybl, Brian Harman and Chris Kirk), plus Georgia coach Chris Haack twice captained the Americans.
“Anytime you’re chosen to represent your country, it’s an honor,” Haack said. “This is quite an accomplishment for Adam. He has worked extremely hard and has been recognized as one of the best players in the country. We are all so proud of him. We know he’ll represent UGA and USA well.”
Team USA leads the all-time Palmer Cup series 6-5-1.
HENLEY EARNS NATIONAL, SEC HONORS
Georgia’s Russell Henley was selected as the National Player of the Week by Golfweek and the Southeastern Conference Male Golfer of the Week on Nov. 13.
Henley led the Bulldogs to the team title at the Isleworth Invitational in Windermere, Fla., as he claimed medalist honors for the second time in his career. The sophomore posted a score of 4-under-par 212 including a second-round 5-under 67 to notch a two-shot victory. He paced the Bulldogs as they wound up 17 shots ahead of Alabama.
Henley notched a ninth-place finish at the Brickyard Collegiate Championship in his hometown of Macon to lead the Bulldogs to that team title as well. Georgia won the Brickyard by 10 shots over Georgia Tech.
DOGS EXCEL IN THE CLASSROOM, TOO
The Bulldogs had the top grade-point average in 2007-08 for Georgia’s men’s athletic squads to win the annual Faculty Athletics Representatives Award for the eighth straight year. The Bulldogs posted an overall GPA of 3.30.
“We’re very happy to win this award again,” Coach Chris Haack said. “It really means a lot to us. We have a good group of guys who take their academics very seriously. I’m proud of the way they take care of their coursework along with their golf.”
Most recently, Michael Green received UGA’s Dick Bestwick Scholar-Athlete Award as the senior male athlete with the highest GPA. Green also was named the recipient of the 2008-09 Joel Eaves Scholar-Athlete Award.
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