For Marquette University, the road to what would be a first-ever berth in the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championships goes through Austin, Texas.
The Golden Eagles, coming off a 24-stroke margin of victory in the Big East tournament — their third conference title in five years under coach Steve Bailey — are seeded eighth in the 14-team Austin Regional, May 13 through 15 at the University of Texas Golf Club.
“We’re not just excited to be here,” Bailey said. “We’ve built the schedule this year to prepare us for these moments. We’ve played enough of these tournaments and faced a lot of these teams. This is what we’ve worked for and we’re looking forward to the opportunity to get out there and compete.”
Jordan Hahn, a senior at the University of Wisconsin, and George Kneiser, a junior at UW-Green Bay, earned individual berths. Both will compete in the Louisville Regional.
Hahn is just the fourth Badgers golfer to earn an individual NCAA invitation and the first since Beaver Dam native Dan Woltman in 2009. Hahn joins Ron Wuensche (1991), Jon Turcott (2002) and Woltman on that list.
Kneiser, an automatic qualifier by virtue of being the medalist in the Horizon League Championship, watched the selection show with nearly 50 friends and family members at The Bar in Green Bay. He is only the second Phoenix golfer to earn an NCAA berth and the first since 2012 when Chad Ebert won the Horizon League to punch his ticket to a postseason berth individually.
Marquette, meanwhile, is looking to ride the momentum of a convincing performance at the Big East Championship.
The Golden Eagles shot 7-under 281 in the final round of the Big East tournament to pull away from DePaul. MU got contributions from everyone in its lineup, with junior Matt Murlick (T-2), senior O.J. Farrell (6), freshman Tyler Leach (7) and senior Austin Kendziorski (T-8) all finishing in the top 10. Sophomore Hunter Eichhorn, the 2018 Big East individual champion, tied for 14th.
“The one big positive we took out of the conference was that everyone contributed, from top to bottom,” Bailey said. “So often this year we had to rely on Hunter and O.J. And to have those other three guys step up the way they did down in South Carolina, it was big for us. We really needed that. And no better time than now for it to happen.”
The University of Texas is the top-seeded team in the Austin Regional and will have a home-course advantage. The other teams are Southern Cal, Pepperdine, Clemson, Texas Christian, Arkansas, Iowa, San Jose State, Saint Mary’s, Sam Houston State, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Prairie View A&M and Army.
The top five teams will advance to the NCAA Division I Championships, May 24 through 29 at Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Eighty-one teams and 45 individuals will compete in six regionals. The other top-seeded teams (regional in parentheses) are Oklahoma State (Louisville), Arizona State (Stanford), Wake Forest (Myrtle Beach), Vanderbilt (Athens, Georgia) and Oklahoma (Pullman, Washington).
Harrison Ott of Brookfield is a sophomore at Vanderbilt, the nation’s fourth-ranked team.
Marquette has final exams next week and will leave Friday, May 10, for Austin. The Golden Eagles will practice somewhere off-site May 11 and will play an official practice round at the University of Texas Golf Club on May 12.
This will be the seventh NCAA regional appearance in program history, but the Golden Eagles have never advanced to the national championship.
“It would be really special,” Bailey said. “We go and try to win the day on Day 1 (in Austin). That’s our goal. Be our best that day. That’s been the way we’ve done things all year long. We’re ready for what we’ll face and we’ll get in some good prep. It will be nice to have exams over with and get out there and focus on golf.”
Said Kendziorski, “It would mean a lot to me to get to nationals, obviously, just seeing this program excel. But it would be really cool to be able to get coach there. He’s never been there. He’s put a lot of hours into this and it would be cool to see the hard work for everyone pay off.”