Two weeks ago, the University of Tennessee men’s golf team concluded the 3M Augusta Invitational with a 12th-place
finish. The week before that, the Vols won the Kingsman Intercollegiate after shooting even par in the final round.
But now, they’re gearing up for an even bigger tournament.
The 2017 SEC Championship will take place this Friday, April 21, and will span over four days total. The first two days of the match will include three rounds of stroke play with the last two days being match play. Sunday will be the final match of the year.
This year marks the first time the championship extends to four days in total.
The course itself is rated No.1 in the country among the "World's 50 Best Golf Hotels" by Golf Digest Index and offers three 18-hole courses, one of which has been host to the PGA TOUR's McGladrey Classic.
Tennessee is ranked as the No. 67 team in the country according to Golfstat.com. According to head coach Jim Kelson, this will be one of the younger teams that Tennessee has had compete in the SEC Tournament in recent memory.
Senior Juan Carlos Serrano and junior Lorenzo Scalise are the only two upperclassmen participating with freshmen Nolan Ray, Rhys Nevin and Brayden Garrison also slated to take place in this year’s conference tournament.
“We’re pretty young, but I feel good about the freshman, they’re good players, I think they’re excited to play and represent Tennessee,” Kelson said. “I feel good about this team … I don’t think the magnitude of the championship will be a factor for our freshman. I really don’t.”
Coach Kelson also said that he isn’t paying attention to individuals but more the collective whole.
The Vols’ freshmen aren’t strangers to stiff competition, however. Nevin, who was named SEC Men’s Freshman Golfer of the Week on March 1, has had eight total rounds of par or better this year averaging 73.66. Ray finished fourth in the Kingsman Intercollegiate with an even par of 210, just one stroke off of first place. Ray’s average this year through nine rounds is 72.77.
Garrison shot a 2-under in his first collegiate round ever at the Carpet Capital Collegiate and averages 75.13 in his 15 rounds played.
Another major player to watch for is Scalise, the team’s lone senior who has notched 14 rounds of par or better and 37 rounds in his career here at UT averaging 72.83.
Despite the strong individuals, Kelson looks for more of a group effort in a championship like this.
“We’re not really looking for any individual to standout,” Kelson said. “They really all got to standout this week. They’ve got to play to the best of their ability in order for us to have a good championship.”
The Vols take Wednesday to travel and will begin practice Thursday with championship play beginning on Friday, April 21. Pairings have not been announced yet, but all results, pairings and leaderboards can be seen at golfstat.com.