The Wolfpacker

March 2012

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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Back For More T Last Year's Squad That Reached The NCAA Championships BY RYAN TICE NC State Returns All But One Player From he NC State men's golf squad was able to qualify for the NCAA Championships last year, ending a four-year absence from the event as a team. The momentum gained last season has carried over to the start of this campaign, and the roster looks almost the ■ PREVIEW MEN'S GOLF same after the departure of just one player. While the Wolfpack will have several factors working in its favor this spring, its biggest advantage will be its experience. The lineup that started the spring at the Puerto Rico Classic — which wrapped up Feb. 21 with the Pack in fifth place out of 15 teams — featured three seniors alongside of junior Mitch Sutton and sophomore Albin Choi, last year's unanimous ACC Rookie of the Year who paced the league in stroke aver- age (71.53). The Pack's 1-under-par 863 at the event was a better score than four teams ranked in the nation's top 34, including No. 1 Texas. "I remember going to that tournament last year, we didn't have anybody on our team that had been to it before," noted head coach Rich- ard Sykes, who is in his 41st year at the helm of his alma mater. "This year, we returned with four guys that have played it, and we're playing three seniors. I can't even remember the last time we played three seniors." The same can be said of the Pack at the NCAA Championships. When Sykes' squad placed fourth at the NCAA Florida Regional to advance to the national tournament last year, it was the first time anybody on the team had ever played that deep into the postseason. If the Pack returns to the NCAA Champion- ships this year, the majority of the roster will be making a return trip to the biggest stage in college golf. Sykes' squad also boasts a rare feat in that three members have logged college tournament victories. Sutton has won a pair of titles during his first two and a half years on campus while Choi wasted no time in claiming two crowns of his own. Senior Mark Sophomore Albin Choi was last year's unani- mous ACC Rookie of the Year after pacing the league in stroke average (71.53 per 18 holes). PHOTO COURTESY NC STATE MEDIA RELATIONS McMillen joined the club this fall and tied for medalist honors at the Bank of Tennessee Intercollegiate. "Returning three guys with wins doesn't happen very often, I'm not so sure it has ever happened to me before," Sykes said. "Mark won a tournament, and it did wonders for him because he's been playing that well for quite a while — it's just a matter of confidence more than anything else." Sutton was limited to just one tournament in the fall due to a broken wrist, but his absence allowed other players to earn starting experience. After what Sykes admitted was a an honorable mention All-American by Golf- week, has logged nine top-10 showings and 14 top-20 finishes in his 18 career starts. Sophomores James Chapman and Christian Hawley, and a trio of rookies — Wilson Day (younger brother of Chad), Andrew Decker and William Herring — round out the roster. "Some of the other guys played well at dif- ferent times in the fall," Sykes noted. "James Chapman finished 15th in the first tourna- ment we played in. Decker played well in the last fall tournament and tied for 12th. All of these guys have played spectacular at dif- ferent times. The key is to get the right ones "Our goal is to try to be the conference champion, which is a lofty goal, and to try to make the national championships. Then, we want to go all the way to the finals and see how well we can do once we're there." ■ Head coach Richard Sykes disappointing seventh-place showing at the Wolfpack Intercollegiate, the team rebounded with a fourth-place finish at the Bank of Tennessee Intercollegiate and then closed the fall with runner-up honors at the Bridgestone Golf Collegiate. "We stumbled right here at our tournament, but we found out that Mitch couldn't play that morning — that was kind of a shocker," the coach said. "The next few tournaments we actually played pretty good without Mitch. Our guys stepped up. I'm hoping they will continue to play the way that they did in the fall with Mitch back in the lineup. "I expect we're going to be good some days, we're not going to be good some days, but that's golf. If we happen to zig and zag just right where we only have one guy play poorly one day, and it's always a different one then we'll do pretty well." The Pack's senior quartet gives the team a great advantage because many teams can't match that type of experience. Graham Baillargeon, Chad Day, Hunter Howell and Mark McMillen have combined to represent NC State in 71 college tournaments. The youngsters are no slouches, either — Sutton, the lone junior on the squad, has played in 27 tournaments during his career with six top-10 finishes and 14 top-20 efforts. He was named an honorable mention PING All-American last year. Choi, who was tabbed playing, and then get them all playing well at the same time." "Our goal is to try to be the conference champion, which is a lofty goal, and to try to make the national championships. Then, we want to go all the way to the finals and see how well we can do once we're there. "Those are pretty much our goals every year, and I think this team has an opportunity to accomplish those — but it will take the right play at the right time." ■ Three To Watch 2011 ACC Freshman of the Year had one of the most memorable rookie seasons in program his- tory, and he has kept it going. He won the Bridge- stone Golf Collegiate and tied for 25th at the Western Refining All-America Golf Classic this fall, before he opened the spring with a tie for 12th at the Puerto Rico Classic. Junior Mitch Sutton — Sutton, who hails from London, Ont., was named All-ACC and selected as an honorable mention All-American by PING last year. He is on the mend from a wrist injury, which limited him to one fall tournament. Senior Mark McMillen — The Smithfield, N.C., Sophomore Albin Choi — The unanimous native tied for medalist honors at the Bank of Ten- nessee Intercollegiate this fall for his first-ever win in college. He finished third on the squad this fall with a 73.3 stroke average after logging action in three tournaments. MARCH 2012 ■ 73

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