Missouri men's golf hopes to capitalize on hosting NCAA regional

Monday, May 12, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The Missouri men’s golf team traveled nearly 9,000 miles this season. It ventured as far south as Puerto Rico and as far west as the Oregon coast.

But for its biggest tournament of the year so far, the Tigers won’t have to travel anywhere.

Starting Thursday, the Tigers host the NCAA Columbia Regional at the Club at Old Hawthorne, Missouri’s home course.

The Columbia regional is one of six NCAA regional tournaments around the country this upcoming weekend. The top five teams from each regional qualify for the Division I National Championship on May 27-28 in Hutchinson, Kan.

This weekend’s tournament will be Missouri’s fourth regional appearance in five years and gives the Tigers an opportunity to qualify for their first national championship appearance since 2005. It features the best field Missouri has seen all season, headlined by No. 2 Oklahoma State, No. 11 Virginia and No. 14 LSU.

Exciting details, to be sure, but perhaps not as exciting as the sleeping arrangements.

“It is nice to sleep in your own bed,” said Missouri redshirt sophomore Wilson Sundvold. “Hotels are fun and all, but they do get a little tiring.”

Missouri coach Mark Leroux also acknowledged the benefits of avoiding planes, vans and hotels for the tournament, along with the fact that the event could attract a pro-Missouri crowd.

Leroux, however, said Missouri’s biggest advantage will be playing on a course they know intimately.

“Any pin (placement) we’ll have this week, we’ll have seen it before,” said senior Hunter Kraus. “Every hole we’ve birdied.”

In September, Missouri hosted the Columbia Regional Preview at Old Hawthorne, the only tournament they’ve played at home this season. The Tigers shot 12-under par as a team and took first, defeating other regional qualifiers in Iowa State, South Alabama and Memphis.

In the eight months since then, the Tigers played in eight other tournaments. Every week, they’ve returned to Old Hawthorne for practice.

“We’re playing in a regional, but it doesn’t seem like it as much as it would if we were going somewhere else,” Kraus said. “(Playing at home) just kind of lowers the stress.”

Having the competition on the home course has had a positive mental effect, according to Leroux.

“I think the guys are relatively at ease, with a little bit of confidence,” he said. “If Mizzou doesn’t make it through, it will be because five teams beat us. We didn’t beat ourselves, but the teams that got through just played well.”

On the other hand, Kraus, who will be competing at home for the final time as a senior, has his sights on seeing Missouri on top of the leaderboard. Missouri hasn’t lost a tournament at home since Kraus joined the team in 2010.

“Why start now?” he said.

Supervising editor is Erik Hall.

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