No. 10 Men's Golf Opens NCAA Championships Tuesday
May 28, 2012
Coming off a runner-up performance at last week's regional, the San Diego State men's golf team heads to the NCAA championships for the second consecutive year and the third time in the last five seasons in Pacific Palisades, Calif. The 10th-ranked Aztecs are one of 30 teams that will participate in the six-day event, May 29-June 3, at the par-71, 7,292-yard Riviera Country Club.
SDSU, which earned the tournament's No. 10 seed, is making the program's 27th all-time appearance at the national championships. It is the first time the program has made back-to-back trips since regional play began in 1989, and the first time overall since going to 11 in a row from 1974-84.
The 2012 NCAA championship tournament features 54 holes of stroke play with one round played each day. The individual national champion will be crowned at the conclusion of stroke play on Thursday, while the top eight teams head to match play with the national title determined between the remaining two squads on Sunday.
After a practice round on Monday at 11:30 a.m. PT, San Diego State will be grouped with No. 11 seed North Florida and No. 12 seed Texas A&M for the first 36 holes. The three teams will start on the first tee at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, while Wednesday's action gets underway on the 10th tee at 8:10 a.m. Pairings and tee times for the final round will be based on team standings.
Live hole-by-hole stats will be available on NCAA.com, as well as goaztecs.com for every day of competition.
Aztec Championship Line-Up
Ninth-year San Diego State head coach Ryan Donovan will take the same five golfers that have been in the starting lineup in each of the last seven events. The NCAA regional runner-up, senior J.J. Spaun (San Dimas, Calif.), will be joined by classmates Matt Hoffenberg (Simi Valley, Calif.), Alex Kang (Oak Park, Calif.) and Colin Featherstone (Fallbrook, Calif.), as well as junior Tom Berry (New Haw, England). Spaun leads the team in season stroke average with a 70.74 mark, followed by Kang (71.59), Berry (72.72), Featherstone (73.04) and Hoffenberg (73.28).
Spaun, Kang and Featherstone each made their NCAA championship debut at last year's event at the Karsten Creek Golf Course in Stillwater, Okla. Spaun posted the top individual finish by an Aztec since at least 1970, tying for third at 1-under 215, and was one of two SDSU golfers in the top 10. Kang tied for 113th with a 233, and Featherstone came in 143rd with a 245.
Hoffenberg, meanwhile, returns to the NCAAs for the first time since his freshman campaign of 2008, when he tied for 52nd with a 72-hole total of 309 in West Lafayette, Ind.
Berry will be playing in his first national championship and has been in the Aztec top three at five-straight events.
The NCAA Championship Field
The Aztecs will obviously face their toughest competition of the season in their quest for a national championship. All of the top 11 schools ranked in the latest golfstat.com poll advanced from the regional tournaments.
The highest rated squad is No. 1 Texas, which has won seven times this season, while Alabama, California, Chattanooga, Liberty, Southern California and Washington claimed the six NCAA regional titles, May 17-19.
SDSU and TCU are the two Mountain West Conference representatives in the 30-school field. The Horned Frogs were the league runner-up for the second year in a row behind the Aztecs and are seeded 26th. Other MWC members UNLV, New Mexico and Colorado State all failed to make it out of the regional round.
The Aztecs have squared off against 15 of the 29 other teams in the field during the 2011-12 campaign, compiling a 15-20 record in head-to-head competition. All 20 of those losses are to the top nine seeds and account for all but three of the team's defeats this season.
SDSU has met up with fellow in-state foes USC and Stanford the most, boasting identical 2-3 records against the pair.
Augusta State, which is two-time defending national champion, did not advance out of regional play, while the 2011 medalist, John Peterson of LSU, graduated a year ago. Both runners-up, Georgia and UCLA's Patrick Cantlay, however, do return to this season's field.
A Look At The Course
The host site of the 2012 NCAA Men's Golf Championships is the par-71, 7,292-yard Riviera Country Club, located in Pacific Palisades, Calif.
Riviera Country Club opened in 1927 and was designed by George Thomas. Since its inception, it has served as a venue for championship golf in Southern California, including for the PGA Tour's Los Angeles/Northern Trust Open.
Riviera has long been known within golfing circles as "Hogan's Alley", a nickname bestowed upon it by three-time Masters champion Jimmy Demaret after Ben Hogan won the 1947 and 1948 Los Angeles Opens and the 1948 U.S. Open at the Club within a span of 18 months. That U.S. Open, the first event to be played West of the Mississippi, would be followed in turn by the 1983 PGA Championship, the 1995 PGA Championship and the 1998 U.S. Senior Open.
The NCAA Men's Golf Championship has not been played in the Pacific time zone since 2006, when it took place in Sunriver, Ore. This is the first time the event has come to the state of California since 1991, when it was played at Poppy Hills in Pebble Beach.
Aztecs At The NCAA Championships
The 2012 NCAA championships will be the 27th for the Aztecs, which includes several appearances at the "small college" (Div. II) level, highlighted by a runner-up performance in 1964, when they fell by just two strokes to Southern Illinois.
The Aztecs are in the championship field for the second consecutive year and the third time in the last five seasons. This is SDSU's fourth appearance since Ryan Donovan took over as head coach of his alma mater. The Scarlet and Black made 11 straight appearances in the NCAAs from 1974-1984.
After the program was dropped and reinstated, SDSU returned to the finals in 1999. This year marks the sixth time since regional play began in 1989, that the Aztecs have advanced to the championships (also 1999, 2003, 2005, 2008, 2011) .
SDSU has finished in the top 10 on two occasions at the Division I level, with their best performance coming in 1966, when the team placed sixth after shooting a combined 604 at Stanford Golf Course. The program's top individual finish since 1999, came in its most recent NCAA championship outing when J.J. Spaun (t-3rd) and Todd Baek (t-10th) both ended up in the top 10.
2011 Flashback: SDSU's Most Recent NCAA Finals Trip
Junior J.J. Spaun tied for third and freshman Todd Baek tied for 10th to lead the San Diego State men's golf team at the 2011 NCAA championships in Stillwater, Okla. As a team, the Aztecs, who were seeded seventh overall, saw their record-breaking season come to a close, as they tied for 16th place with a 54-hole total of 34-over 898 at the par-72, 7,416-yard Karsten Creek Golf Club.
Spaun's NCAA performance was the best in school history since at least 1970, with the previous high coming when Barry Mahlberg took 16th in 1982. His 54-hole total of 215 also ranked second during that time span to only Mahlberg's 1982 effort (213).
Baek tied for 10th at 1-over 217 to complete his first collegiate campaign and was later one of five players named to the NCAA Division I all-freshman team by the Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA).
SDSU junior Alex Kang and senior Johan Carlsson both tied for 113th place at 17-over 233, while junior Colin Featherstone was never able to overcome an opening round 86 and eventually wound up in 143rd with a 245.
Rewind: SDSU, Spaun Place Second At NCAA Regional
The No. 14 San Diego State men's golf team earned a trip to the national championships by finishing second at the NCAA Stanford Regional in Stanford, Calif. The Aztecs climbed from eighth after the first 18 holes into second place after the second round, which is where they remained in the final standings after posting a 19-under 821. SDSU finished six strokes in back of top-seeded and No. 2 ranked California (815) at the par-70, 6,727-yard Stanford Golf Course.
The Aztecs had three golfers place in the top 18, including senior J.J. Spaun, who was the individual runner-up at 12-under 198. The Mountain West Golfer of the Year was edged out of his fourth medalist honor of the season by Pepperdine's Josh Anderson, who was competing as an individual and ended with a 14-under 196.
Spaun still finished out the weekend with three Aztec NCAA regional records for low round (63), low 54-hole score (198) and best finish (2nd). Spaun's 198 also is just the third time an SDSU golfer has broken the 200-barrier at a 54-hole event (tied for second all-time).
Fellow senior Alex Kang, meanwhile, logged his second consecutive top-10 performance at an NCAA regional, improving from 14th to 10th in the final round with a 4-under 206. Junior Tom Berry was the third Aztec in the top 20 in a tie for 18th at 2-under 208. Senior Matt Hoffenberg, who played in his first NCAA regional since 2008, moved from 51st into 44th over the final 18 holes with a 5-over 215. Classmate Colin Featherstone capped the Aztec contingent in 55th place with a 218, following back-to-back 74s.
Rewind: Aztecs Claim Back-To-Back MWC Titles
The San Diego State men's golf team earned its second consecutive Mountain West championship with a five-stroke victory over second place TCU at the par-71, 7,144-yard OMNI Tucson National Golf Resort in Tucson, Ariz., May 6. The Aztecs had a three-day total of 8-under 844, which allowed them to become the first school to earn back-to-back MW titles since 2005-06.
SDSU led at the end of all three rounds in a tournament that featured four teams ranked in the top 45 nationally. The squad has now finished in the top two at the Mountain West championships four consecutive seasons and its 54-hole score of 844 matches as its best ever at this event. San Diego State has finished first in each of its last four trips to OMNI Tucson National, winning the 2012 National Invitational Tournament in mid-March and also earning titles at the NCAA West Regional and Mountain West championship in 2011.
All five Aztec golfers finished in the top 17 on the individual leaderboard, including three in the top 10. Senior Alex Kang and junior Tom Berry were the co-leaders through 36 holes, but dropped back to fourth and fifth place respectively after both carding their highest rounds of the event.
SDSU's third player in the top 10 was senior J.J. Spaun, who tied for ninth with a 212. Both Matt Hoffenberg and Colin Featherstone moved up the individual leaderboard each of the final two days, ending up 12th and 17th, respectively.
Donovan, Spaun, Kang Earn All-MWC Honors
The San Diego State men's golf team picked up two of the Mountain West's top awards for 2012, as senior J.J. Spaun was named player of the year and Ryan Donovan was tabbed coach of the year. Spaun, who was also selected to the all-conference team with classmate Alex Kang, becomes the fourth Aztec so honored, while this is the second year in a row Donovan has claimed his award.
Spaun is the fourth SDSU player to be named the Mountain West Golfer of the Year, but the first since 2008. Previous winners include Aaron Goldberg (2008), John Lieber (2002) and Lars Johansson (2001). Spaun also joins Goldberg (2006-08) and Mark Warman (2002-04) as the only Aztecs to be chosen to the all-MW squad three times.
In his ninth year at the helm of his alma mater, Donovan has led San Diego State to five tournament titles this season, including four in a row, and its second consecutive conference championship. He is the first Aztec men's golf coach so honored by the Mountain West.
Kang landed on the all-conference squad for the second season in a row and is just the sixth Aztec to earn multiple all-Mountain West accolades. He owns a current stroke average of 71.59 and has five top-five finishes with each of those coming this spring.
In The National Rankings
After finishing second at the NCAA regional, San Diego State moved from 14th into 10th in the latest golfstat.com national rankings, which were released Wednesday. The team remained 14th by Golfweek/Sagarin and jumped just slightly into a tie for 13th with North Florida in the Golf World/Nike Golf Division I College Coaches' Poll (May 16).
San Diego State's five tournament titles this year tie for fifth nationally behind only No. 1 Texas (7), No. 7 Oregon (7), No. 3 California (6) and No. 12 Arkansas (6).
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 five tournament titles, including four in a row, in 2012. The team has ended up in the top seven in all 13 outings, including nine in the top three, and boasts a combined head-to-head record of 149-23-2.
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. Classmate J.J. Spaun then followed that up with three consecutive 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.
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 24 tournament titles and five 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. In 2012, he repeated as the league coach of the year and also tutored the Mountain West Player of the Year in senior J.J. Spaun.
A native of Yorba Linda, Calif., Donovan was a four-year member of the Aztec golf squad, before graduating in 2001.
NCAA Ticket Information
All-session tickets for the NCAA Men's Golf Championships are available online at usctrojans.com for $30. Single-day tickets can be purchased for $10 at the gate with children 12-and-under admitted free with a paying adult. Daily self-parking is available for $10 at Paul Revere Middle School.