By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
Mike McGraw is not using the program's best-ever finish at last year's NCAA Championships as "the standard or the benchmark" for the Baylor men's golf team this season.
"We're trying not to think about last year other than just to bring forward some positive thoughts," said McGraw, whose team is playing in the Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate that starts Monday morning at Old Overton Club in Vestavia Hills, Ala.
"We're not drawing comparisons, it's a completely different team, even though we only lost one player of that team. . . . It's kind of like you don't forget that the past existed, and you're thrilled that you were able to do the things we did last year. But, you only build upon that. You don't look at it as the standard or benchmark. I think we should be better, and I know the kids believe that."
Despite maybe not hitting on all cylinders, the Bears had chances in each of the first two tournaments of the year. They had the lead after 18 holes and were in second going into the final round both times before placing second at the Gopher Invitational in Independence, Minn., and fourth at the Fighting Illini Invite three weeks ago in Olympia Fields, Ill.
"It's definitely a positive thing that we're getting off to a good start," said Matthew Perrine, the lone senior on the team, who is averaging 72.17 strokes per round and tied for fifth at the Gopher Invite.
"We're definitely not satisfied that we're not getting the victories. We've just got to go out there and keep the foot on the gas pedal and not be satisfied with playing well after the first round, so that we're really prepared in rounds 2 and 3 to go out there and lead the rest of the way."
After using the same lineup in every tournament last season, on the way to the match play quarterfinals at the NCAA Championships, McGraw has already reshuffled the lineup this year. Junior Braden Bailey, who has a 70.33-stroke average, is back at the No. 1 spot in a lineup that includes Perrine, sophomore Cooper Dossey, redshirt freshman Travis McInroe and freshman Ryan Grider.
"The good news with that is we have a tougher team this year," McGraw said. "We've got more guys competing for the last spot. It's showing in the way they practice and work every day. They just know, somebody here wants to take my spot. I think, because of the competition, we'll end up being a better team in the long run. But, I won't play the same five every tournament this year, it just won't happen."
Baylor is 15th in the latest Golfweek/Sagarin rankings and is joined in the Jerry Pate's 12-team field by No. 3 Alabama, No. 12 Auburn, No. 22 Arkansas, No. 27 BYU, No. 39 UNLV and 45th-ranked Mississippi State, along with UAB, Michigan, Samford, Charlotte and South Alabama.
"You're going to see several teams that I think could compete for conference championships and even a national championship. And I want that," McGraw said. "I want our guys to play against better competition. Yeah, you get more of a chance to get your nose bloodied, but you also find a lot more about yourself.
"That was one of the goals when I got to Baylor was to try to upgrade the schedule a little bit, to try to go to some tournaments where if we played poorly we could finish pretty far down the list. But, I think it keeps you sharp."
Perrine, a third-team All-American last year when he had nine consecutive top-10 finishes, said "the stronger the field typically corresponds with the quality of the golf course."
"The better golf course you play, the better you're going to become," he said. "Even if you're not playing well that week, you can still take something from it and learn and apply that to your game. . . . We're out there playing good, quality, tough golf courses like Olympia Fields and Windsong Farms, and now we're headed up to Old Overton. The more we're challenged early, the better we'll be later." Tee times for Monday's first round begin at 7:30 a.m. CDT, with live scoring available at www.golfstat.com.
WACO, Texas -- Baylor men's golf returns to action at the Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate, which runs Monday through Tuesday in Vestavia Hills, Ala. The two-day, 54-hole tournament will be played on the par-70, 7,209-yard course at Old Overton Club.
Baylor is the only Big 12 Conference representative in the 12-team field. The first 2017-18 GolfStat rankings will be released Oct. 15, but the Bears are No. 15 in the Oct. 4 Golfweek/Sagarin rankings. BU will take on No. 3 Alabama, No. 12 Auburn, No. 22 Arkansas, No. 27 BYU, No. 39 UNLV, No. 45 Mississippi State, UAB, Michigan, Samford, Charlotte and South Alabama.
BU is playing in the Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate for the third consecutive season and fourth time in program history. The Bears placed third in 2016, fourth in 2008 and eighth in 2015.
Braden Bailey is back in the No. 1 spot for the second time in three tournaments this season, and it's his 11th consecutive tournament playing in one of the top two spots in the Baylor lineup. Matthew Perrine is No. 2, followed by Cooper Dossey, Travis McInroe and Ryan Grider. McInroe is making his second appearance in the Baylor lineup, while Perrine, Dossey and Grider have remained in the lineup for all three tournaments this season.
Three members of the Baylor lineup recorded top-20 finishes at last year's Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate. Perrine placed fourth at 3-under 207, Dossey tied for ninth at even-par 210, and Bailey took 19th place at 4-over 214.
Baylor players have combined to post a 72.50 stroke average over 42 rounds this season, while golfers in the BU lineup have averaged a 71.25 counting score. The team has combined to play 18 of 42 rounds at par or better, led by Bailey with five of six rounds at par or better.
Bailey has posted back-to-back top-10 finishes to start the season, placing him in a tie with Perrine for eighth in program history with 12 career top-10 finishes.
Tee times for Monday's first round begin at 7:30 a.m. CT from both the first and 10th tees. Baylor players will begin from No. 1 in pairings with golfers from Alabama and Arkansas. Grider is up first at 7:30 a.m., and he'll be followed in 10-minute intervals by McInroe, Dossey, Perrine and Bailey, respectively.
Teams will also play the second round on Monday beginning at 12:30 p.m. in the same pairings from the first round, but starting from the opposite tees. Grider will tee off for the second round from No. 10 at 12:30 p.m., followed by McInroe, Dossey, Perrine and Bailey, respectively.
Live scoring for the Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate is available at www.golfstat.com. Follow @BaylorMGolf on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for updates throughout the season.