Men's Golf to Open 2015-16 Season in Georgia
BATON ROUGE – After being crowned national champions in their last appearance together at the 2015 NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championships, the LSU Tigers will open the defense of their title in their 2015-16 season opener this weekend at the 27th-annual Carpet Capital Collegiate Classic being held at The Farm Golf Club in Rocky Face, Georgia.
The three-day-54-hole championship kicks off with Friday’s first round as tee times are slated to begin at 7:30 a.m. CT, followed by the start of Saturday’s second round at 7:30 a.m. and Sunday’s final round at 7 a.m. to decide this year’s champion. The Farm Golf Club will play to a par 72 and 7,012 yards in one of the marquee events of the collegiate season this fall.
The Tigers will certainly be facing an NCAA Championships caliber field in their debut event of the 2015 fall season with seven teams in the 15-team field featuring at the NCAA Championships in June and eight teams in the Bushnell Golfweek NCAA Division I Coaches’ Preseason Poll released two weeks ago on Aug. 28.
The Tigers are the main attraction at this year’s Carpet Capital Collegiate Classic as they tee it up in their first event since being crowned NCAA Champions for a fifth time in team history three months ago.
That’s when LSU scored a 4-1 victory over the USC Trojans in the NCAA Championship Match back on June 3 to claim the team title at the 2015 NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championships held at Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Florida. The Tigers were also NCAA Semifinalists two seasons ago when they officially tied for third place in match play at the NCAA Championships in 2014.
With three members of LSU’s SEC and NCAA-title-winning lineup returning to the team for the 2015-16 season, the Tigers have earned their highest ever preseason ranking in the program’s history as the No. 2-ranked team in the country in the Bushnell Golfweek NCAA Division I Coaches’ Preseason Poll. It marks the third-straight season in which they are among the NCAA’s Top 10 ranked teams in the preseason.
LSU is joined in a star-studded field by six other SEC programs, including No. 8 South Carolina, No. 9 Auburn, No. 17 Alabama, No. 23 Florida, Ole Miss and Tennessee. Other nationally-ranked teams in this season’s field include No. 13 Georgia Tech, No. 14 South Florida and No. 22 North Carolina, while Chattanooga, Clemson, Dalton State, Kennesaw State and North Florida round out the competition.
South Carolina, which finished in 13th place in stroke play at the NCAA Championships in June, is the defending team champion at the Carpet Capital Collegiate Classic after firing a winning score of 16-under par 848 for a narrow one-stroke victory over Georgia Tech in second place at 15-under par and four-stroke victory over Auburn and Kennesaw State in a tie for third place at 12-under par on the final team leaderboard.
The Yellow Jackets nearly joined the Tigers in match play at the NCAA Championships while finishing in ninth place overall in stroke play a season ago, while Auburn placed 12th nationally in the championship.
South Florida is the second-highest finisher from last year’s NCAA Championships that will feature at the Carpet Capital Collegiate Classic this weekend after being knocked out of match play in the quarterfinal round of the tournament, while Florida tied for 28th place and Clemson finished in 30th place in stroke play to end the 2015 spring season.
Two of LSU’s returning All-Americans in senior Zach Wright and junior Eric Ricard will lead the squad at The Farm Golf Club this weekend as they will be joined by sophomore Blake Caldwell and freshmen Sam Burns and Luis Gagne in the lineup. Wright is making his 34th tournament appearance as an LSU Tiger, while Ricard is in the lineup for the 17th time in his collegiate career.
Wright was certainly a catalyst in the Tigers sweeping SEC and NCAA team championships in 2015 as he was named a PING Honorable Mention All-American and a Second-Team All-SEC performer as a junior. His season was highlighted by posting a perfect 3-0 record in match play at the NCAA Championships en route to the Tigers winning their fifth national championship all-time. He also earned his best finish at the SEC Championship by tying for sixth place overall in helping the Tigers win their 16th conference title in program history.
While competing in 11 tournaments for the Tigers in 2014-15, Wright posted a career-best scoring average of 72.03 stroke per round and ended the season as Golfstat’s No. 44-ranked player nationally.
Ricard was also unbeaten in LSU’s run to the national championship as he posted an impressive 2-0-1 mark in his three matches at the NCAA Championships. Like Wright, Ricard was honored for his performance during his sophomore season as a PING Honorable Mention All-American and Second-Team All-SEC performer a season ago. He ended the season at Golfweek’s No. 61-ranked player nationally for the campaign.
A native of Ponchatoula, Louisiana, Caldwell played in four tournaments as a freshman in 2014-15 while tying for 29th place in his best finish at the Golfweek Conference Challenge as LSU won the team title.
Burns and Gagne are each making their collegiate debuts with the Tigers after joining the program as two of the nation’s top recruits in the Class of 2015 a year ago. Burns signed with the Tigers as the No. 1 prep recruit from Calvary Baptist Academy in Shreveport, while Gagne also ranked among the Top 20 recruits nationally following an outstanding career at Orlando Christian Prep School in Orlando, Florida.
Live scoring for each round at this year’s event will be provided by Golfstat and can be found online at http://www.golfstat.com. After opening their 2015-16 season in Rocky Face, Georgia, this weekend, the Tigers will make a return trip to Burlington, Iowa, to from Sept. 25-27 to defend their team title at the Golfweek Conference Challenge being held at Spirit Hollow Golf Club.