#14 Men's Golf Set To Defend MW Crown Starting Thursday

May 2, 2012

SDSU Mountain West Tournament NotesGet Acrobat Reader

The 14th-ranked San Diego State men's golf team looks to defend its conference crown, as the Aztecs head to the 2012 Mountain West Championship, May 4-6, in Tucson, Ariz. SDSU, which won its first-ever MW title a year ago on the same par-71, 7,144-yard OMNI Tucson National Golf Resort course, will play 18 holes each day (54 total), following a Thursday afternoon practice round.

The Aztecs will face some top competition in their effort to repeat, as half of the eight-school field is currently ranked in the top 50 nationally. UNLV earned the tournament's top seed, followed by San Diego State, New Mexico, TCU, Colorado State, Boise State, Air Force and Wyoming.

This is the sixth consecutive year that the event has been played at the OMNI Tucson National Golf Resort & Spa. The Aztecs have already competed in the state of Arizona twice this spring, winning on the same course at the National Invitational Tournament in mid-March and more recently at the Thunderbird Invitational at Karsten Golf Course in Tempe (April 6-7), when they tied for second.

SDSU has finished in the top two six times in the 12-year history of the event. The Aztecs are looking to become the first repeat winner since New Mexico claimed four straight from 2003-06.

The team will be paired with UNLV for the first round, starting at 7 a.m. PT from the first tee on Thursday. Live tournament stats will be available on goaztecs.com as well as golfstat.com.

Aztec Line-Up For This Week
Ninth-year San Diego State head coach Ryan Donovan will bring a veteran lineup of four seniors and a junior to this week's Mountain West Conference championships.

Four of the five helped the squad to the title a year ago, including seniors Colin Featherstone (Fallbrook, Calif.), J.J. Spaun (San Dimas, Calif.) and Alex Kang (Oak Park, Calif.) and junior Tom Berry (New Haw, England). Senior Matt Hoffenberg (Simi Valley, Calif.) will be returning to the MW tourney for the first time since his sophomore campaign of 2009.

Spaun is the most experienced in the Aztec line-up, making his fourth consecutive MW championship appearance. The remaining four golfers have all played twice previously.

The Competition
As mentioned earlier, half of the Mountain West's eight teams are currently ranked in the top 50 in the nation, including No. 7 UNLV, No. 14 San Diego State, No. 16 New Mexico and No. 45 TCU. Colorado State is rated 67th, however, there is a huge drop off to the final three squads in No. 160 Boise State, No. 167 Air Force and No. 171 Wyoming. Last year, the Aztecs were the only MW school in the top 30, entering the week at No. 7.

In 2011-12, SDSU owns a combined head-to-head record of 11-2-1 vs. Mountain West Conference foes. SDSU is 4-0 vs. Wyoming, 2-0 against Colorado State, 1-0 vs. TCU and Air Force, 2-1 vs. UNLV and 1-1-1 against New Mexico. Boise State is the only opponent the team has yet to face this season.

Individually, TCU's Julien Brun boasts the league's best season stroke average at 70.87, followed by reigning MWC medalist UNLV's Derek Ernst (71.10) and San Diego State's J.J. Spaun (71.18). All three are among the nation's top 25 in the Golfstat Cup individual rankings.

Of the 12 golfers to finish under par at the 2011 MWC championship, half are returning in Ernst, Spaun, SDSU's Alex Kang, TCU's Johan de Beer, UNLV's Kevin Penner and Air Force's Robert Belz.

SDSU In The MWC Tournament
In the 12-year history of the Mountain West Conference, SDSU won in 2011, finished second on five occasions (2010, 2009, 2006, 2003, 2001), placed fourth three times (2005, 2004, 2002), came in fifth twice (2007, 2000) and ended up seventh once (2008).

The Aztecs' best individual performance came in 2001, when John Lepak posted a 3-over 219 to win by one stroke at the Sunriver Resort in Oregon. Adam Porzak also tied for first place in regulation in 2007, but came up just short in a playoff hole to TCU's Robby Ormand.

An Aztec has placed among the top four each of the last six seasons and 11 times overall.

Mountain West History Lesson
• Six schools have won at least one Mountain West Conference title with only one, New Mexico, claiming consecutive championships. UNLV finished atop the standings in two of the first three MWC championships in 2000 and 2002, BYU placed first in 2001 and 2007, UNM won four in a row from 2003-06, and TCU earned its lone title in 2009. Three teams have combined to win the four most recent tournaments with Colorado State doing so twice during that span in 2008 and 2010.

• Six different schools have had a player win the individual title, including SDSU (2001), UNLV (2000, 2004, 2008, 2011), New Mexico (2003, 2009), Colorado State (2002, 2010), BYU (2005) and TCU (2007).

• The first MWC championship took place at the PGA West course in Palm Desert, Calif., before moving to the Crosswater course at the Sunriver Resort in Sunriver, Ore., for six years in a row. The tournament has since been played at the Catalina Course at the OMNI Tucson National Resort in Arizona.

• This year's field of eight teams is the smallest since the 2000-05 editions also had eight squads.

In The National Rankings
After an 18-day layoff and a seventh-place performance at the 65th annual Western Intercollegiate, San Diego State finds itself in 14th in the latest golfstat.com national rankings, which were released Wednesday. The team is also rated 15th by Golfweek/Sagarin and remained 14th in the Golf World/Nike Golf Division I College Coaches' Poll, which was posted back on April 25.

Individually, J.J. Spaun is 23rd in the Golfstat Cup standings and 26th according to Golfweek. The next highest Aztec is fellow senior Alex Kang, who is at No. 74 and No. 78, respectively.

San Diego State's four tournament titles this year tie for sixth nationally behind only No. 1 Texas (7), No. 10 Arkansas (6), No. 11 Oregon (6), No. 4 UNLV (5) and No. 8 North Florida (5).

Flashback: Aztecs Win First Mountain West Crown
The San Diego State men's golf team won its first-ever Mountain West Conference Championship in dramatic fashion, holding off second-place TCU by just two strokes at the OMNI Tucson National Golf Course. The seventh-ranked Aztecs, who claimed their sixth tournament title of 2010-11, finished the three-day, 54-hole event with a 5-under 847.

On a day that saw three different squads vault into the lead, the tournament came down to the final group on the par-4 18th hole. With a birdie, TCU's Johan de Beer could have tied his team with SDSU at 5-under, however, he ended up carding a bogey to preserve the Aztecs' two-stroke advantage. The Horned Frogs rounded out the championships at 3-under 849, while UNLV, which trailed San Diego State by just one stroke heading into the day, dropped into third place after its final-round 10-over 294.

The Aztecs had three golfers place in the top seven and four in the top 20 overall. Junior Alex Kang had two sub-par efforts and moved from eighth into fourth place in the final 18 holes with a 4-under 209. Classmate J.J. Spaun and senior Johan Carlsson both finished in the top 10, tying for seventh place at 1-under 212.

Junior Colin Featherstone had his best round of the tournament on the final day with an even-par 72 to jump from 22nd into a tie for 17th at 3-over 216. Sophomore Tom Berry rounded out the contingent by coming in 31st place.

In the individual race, there was a three-way tie at the end of regulation with UNLV's Derek Ernst, Colorado State's Ryan Peterson and New Mexico's Travis Ross all finishing at 6-under 207. Ernst, however, pulled out the outright title after carding a birdie on the third playoff hole.

Aztec 11-12 Highlights
The San Diego State men's golf team is enjoying yet another record-setting season. The Aztecs have maintained a top 20 ranking throughout the campaign, which has been highlighted by four consecutive tournament titles in 2012. The team has ended up in the top seven in all 12 outings, including seven in the top three, and boasts a combined head-to-head record of 131-22-2, which amounts to a 85.2 winning percentage.

Individually, an Aztec has claimed medalist honors four times with each coming in consecutive events during the spring. Senior Matt Hoffenberg, who did not play with the squad a year ago, got the winning started at the North Ranch Intercollegiate in late February with his 2-over 212. Classmate J.J. Spaun then followed that up with three consecutive individual titles at the Farms Invitational, the National Invitational Tournament and the Barona Collegiate Cup.

For his efforts, Spaun was named the National Amateur of the Month by the Southern Golf Association, Mountain West Golfer of the Month and Golf World College Player of the Week. His five career individual titles tie him for first in school history along with SDSU Hall of Famer Lennie Clements.

Rewind: Aztecs 7th In Final Regular-Season Event
The San Diego State men's golf team finished out its final regular-season tournament in seventh place at the 66th Annual Western Intercollegiate in Santa Cruz, Calif., April 15. The Aztecs posted a 54-hole total of 71-over 1,121 at the par-70, 6,615-yard Pasatiempo Golf Course.

SDSU had three of its six golfers improve in the individual standings in the final round, including senior J.J. Spaun who tied for 33rd with a 12-over 222, marking the sixth time in 11 tournaments this season that he has finished as the top Aztec.

Classmate Colin Featherstone was the second Aztec in the top 40, taking 36th with a 223. Tom Berry tied for 50th, Cameron Tennant (Woodland Hills, Calif.) and Alex Kang both finished in 54th, while Matt Hoffenberg closed out the week in 56th.

Up Next
The winner of this week's Mountain West Conference championship earns an automatic bid to the NCAA regional tournament, May 17-19. This year's six regional sites include just one in the Pacific time zone at Stanford Golf Course in Stanford, Calif. San Diego State could also get sent to Grandover Resort in Greensboro, N.C., University of Georgia Golf Course in Athens, Ga., University of Michigan Golf Course in Ann Arbor, Mich. or The Club at Olde Stone in Bowling Green, Ky.

With its No. 14 national ranking, San Diego State is all but assured of its 14th consecutive and 17th overall trip to the NCAA regional round, which began back in 1989.

In all, 81 teams and 45 individuals not on those squads will be divided up among the six regional tournaments. The participants will be selected by the NCAA men's golf committee and are announced on May 7 at 6 p.m. PT on NCAA.com.

Thirty teams and two individuals (not on those teams) will advance to the NCAA championships, May 29-June 3, at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif. The Aztecs have made the national championships 21 times in school history, including five times (1999, 2003, 2005, 2008, 2011) since the regional format made its debut.

Head Coach Ryan Donovan
Ryan Donovan is in his ninth season at the helm of the SDSU golf program after serving as an assistant in 2003. Since taking, he has directed the Aztecs to 23 tournament titles and four NCAA national championship appearances.

In 2010-11, he was named a finalist for the Dave Williams Award, which is handed out annually to the national coach of the year in Division I men's golf. Donovan also became the first Aztec named Mountain West Coach of the Year and was tabbed the Eaton Golf Pride West Region Division I Men's Coach of the Year by the GCAA.

A native of Yorba Linda, Calif., Donovan was a four-year member of the Aztec golf squad, before graduating in 2001.