By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
Knowing that Stockton, Calif., Columbus, Ohio, and Raleigh, N.C., were all potential landing spots for his 11th-ranked Baylor men's golf team for an NCAA regional, Mike McGraw was hoping and praying for The Traditions Club right down the road in Bryan.
"But, not really expecting it," he said. Sometimes, you get what you hope for. Baylor's road to a program-record third straight NCAA Championship berth begins Monday at the 13-team regional in Bryan, where the Bears are seeded second behind only second-ranked and host Texas A&M.
"When you go to a regional site you've never been on, you spend your whole practice round trying to learn the golf course," McGraw said. "We're just really fortunate, because we know the golf course." Senior Matthew Perrine estimates he's played 50 competitive rounds at The Traditions, including an individual top-15 finish at last month's Aggie Invitational. The Bears shot 4-under-par 284 in the closing round and finished seventh in the 13-team tournament with head-to-head wins over then-No. 6 Texas Tech and 16th-ranked Arkansas.
"We have a huge advantage going down there to play a course that we've played so many times," said Perrine, who's tied for second on the team with junior Braden Bailey with a 71.29-stroke average. "It's a challenging driving course, you have to keep it in the fairway, and we do a really good job of that. We don't make a lot of big numbers. If we can keep the ball in the fairway and make a lot of birdies, we're going to be in pretty good shape."
After finishing in the top four at six consecutive tournaments, including winning the Royal Oaks Intercollegiate back in October, the Bears have finished no higher than fifth in the last five events. At each of the six regional tournaments, the top five teams advance to the NCAA Championship May 25-30 at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.
Junior Garrett May, who's playing in the No. 1 position with a No. 15 national ranking, said the team hasn't "touched any of our potential, collectively, this year."
"I think if all five of us play to our capabilities, there's not a team that can even come close to touching us," said May, who leads the team with a 70.68-stroke average, six top-10 and eight top-25 finishes. "I think we have a lot of things still in the tank. And as soon as we tap into that, it's going to be awesome. I think this team is going to do something special."
Perrine said the Bears are "more than capable" of not only making it to the NCAA Championship but winning it all.
"We have the talent, we have the depth, we have the confidence," Perrine said. "We just need to go out there and put it all together. We're higher-ranked than Oklahoma was last year at this time when they went on to win. That doesn't mean a whole lot, but it shows you that anything's out there. I know all these guys and know the talent they have. I have no doubt that if we play to our capabilities, we'll be back there at the end."
Last year, Baylor won a regional for the first time in school history and lost to eventual national champion Oklahoma, 3-2, in the quarterfinals for an all-time best finish of fifth. Perrine lost to the Sooners' Brad Dalke on the first playoff hole after winning the last two holes in regulation.
"You don't have to reinvent the wheel and you don't have to do something superhuman," McGraw said. You just need to go be yourself. A lot of people think they have to do something special. And truly, you don't. If you can just find that familiar place where you're comfortable, I think you have a good chance to at least perform at your best or your level. If that's good enough, great. And if it's not, we can live with that, too. I just don't want to change a lot of things right now."
Paired with Texas A&M and 14th-ranked Clemson for Monday's opening round, Baylor will tee off from the No. 1 hole between 7:30 and 8:14 a.m. Monday. Live scoring is available at www.golfstat.com.
WACO, Texas -- Baylor men's golf makes its 21st consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance when it tees off Monday morning in the NCAA Bryan (Texas) Regional. The three-day, 54-hole tournament, will be played on the par-72, 7,121-yard course at Traditions Club.
The No. 11-ranked Bears are the No. 2 seed in the Regional behind only host and No. 2-ranked Texas A&M. The 13-team field also features No. 3 seed Clemson, No. 4 Kentucky, No. 5 UCLA, No. 6 Ole Miss, No. 7 South Carolina, No. 8 San Francisco, No. 9 Georgia, No. 10 Mississippi State, No. 11 UNC Wilmington, No. 12 Northern Colorado and No. 13 Bradley.
The top five teams and low individual on a non-advancing team will advance to the 2018 NCAA Division I Men's Golf Championship, which will be played May 25-30 at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.
Baylor's lineup for the Bryan Regional is led by junior Garrett May in the No. 1 spot for a sixth consecutive tournament. He's followed by junior Braden Bailey at No. 2, making his 28th consecutive start in a top-three spot of the BU lineup. Senior Matthew Perrine is playing at No. 3, followed by sophomore Cooper Dossey and freshman Ryan Grider.
Dossey is in the No. 4 spot for a fourth consecutive tournament after missing the Bears' first four spring tournaments with a wrist injury. His first tournament back was the Aggie Invitational at Traditions Club, the same course hosting the Regional. Baylor finished seventh at the 2018 Aggie Invitational, while May, Bailey and Perrine recorded top-15 individual finishes.
Grider is in the Baylor lineup for the first time since March 18-20 at the Valspar Collegiate, but he finished in second place out of 35 players at the ASU Individual in his last time out for the Bears.
The last time Baylor's lineup featured these same five players was the final tournament of the fall season, when the Bears rolled to a 19-stroke win at the Royal Oaks Intercollegiate. Dossey won the individual title, Bailey tied for third place and Perrine and May tied for sixth place.
BU has competed against four of its 12 Bryan Regional opponents during the 2017-18 season, and the Bears have a combined 5-4 head-to-head record against those teams -- Texas A&M (0-4), Ole Miss (2-0), South Carolina (2-0) and Mississippi State (1-0).
Baylor is paired with Texas A&M and Clemson for Monday's first round and those groups tee off from the first hole at 7:30 a.m. CT. Grider is up first at 7:30 a.m., and he'll be followed by Dossey at 7:41 a.m., Perrine at 7:52 a.m., Bailey at 8:03 a.m. and May at 8:14 a.m.
Tee times for Tuesday's second round and Wednesday's final round will be set according to standings, with the top three teams beginning from the first hole at 7:30 a.m. and teams in fourth through sixth place teeing off on No. 10 starting at 8 a.m.
Head coach Mike McGraw has led Baylor to NCAA Regionals in each of his four seasons guiding the program. The Bears are looking to set a program record with a third consecutive NCAA Championship berth. Baylor's only back-to-back NCAA Championship berths were in 1966-67 and 2016-17. The Bears have played in seven NCAA Championships (1960, 1966, 1967, 2002, 2010, 2016, 2017), and their best finish was last year when they tied for fifth place.
BU won the first regional title in program history last season when it made a late push to tie host Stanford on its home golf course at the Stanford (Calif.) Regional. The Bears then finished tied for seventh in the stroke play portion of the NCAA Championship, earning the first match play berth in program history. BU lost in a playoff in its quarterfinal match against eventual national champion Oklahoma.
Live scoring for the NCAA Bryan Regional is available at www.golfstat.com. Follow @BaylorMGolf on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for updates throughout the season.
NCAA Bryan Regional Seeds (Golfstat ranking)
1. Texas A&M (No. 2)
2. Baylor (No. 11)
3. Clemson (No. 14)
4. Kentucky (No. 23)
5. UCLA (No. 26)
6. Ole Miss (No. 32)
7. South Carolina (No. 38)
8. San Francisco (No. 45)
9. Georgia (No. 50)
10. Mississippi State (No. 58)
11. UNC Wilmington (No. 65)
12. Northern Colorado (No. 153)
13. Bradley (No. 164)