SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The long awaited start of a three-year run for the NCAA golf Championships in Arizona is now just three weeks away.
The women are up first at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale from May 21-26 followed by the men from May 28-June 2. The 2022 and 2023 nationals also will be held at Grayhawk, which was to have hosted for the first time in 2020 before all spring NCAA championships were canceled due to the pandemic.
So a process that began in 2017, not long after Matt Thurmond was hired as Arizona State men’s golf coach, finally culminates in what Thurmond said will result in Scottsdale becoming the “center of the collegiate golf universe” at least for the short term.
Staging the championships is a combined effort by Grayhawk, ASU, NCAA, Golf Channel and the Thunderbirds to annually host 24 women’s and 30 men’s teams in stroke and match play for a combined total of 54 days (including practice rounds) over three years.
“We’re the tail end of a very big dog,” Del Cochran, Grayhawk general manager, said Thursday. “When we started this journey, we had no idea how it was going to go. We wondered how everyone would blend together, and it’s been absolutely seamless. We will all be proud of the product.”
Spectators will be allowed—with free admission thanks to a sponsorship—although how many and COVID protocol details have yet to be announced.
For the party to be at its peak requires the ASU teams to advance through NCAA regionals.
The women must finish in the top six at a regional May 10-12 in Columbus, Ohio. The men will learn which of six May 17-19 regionals they will be assigned to on Wednesday, May 4, and then need a top-five finish to advance.
“It’s a little bit of pressure and motivation,” ASU women’s coach Missy Farr-Kaye said. “I’m just trying to keep them positive, and they are. I’m happy to go to Ohio State (for regional) because the Scarlet course is one of the best in the country. It could be 70 (degrees) one day and it could be 40 the next. I don’t think that will phase our group at all. It’s a separator course, you’re not going to be able to get away with anything and that’s what I want.”
The ASU women were third at Pac-12 Championships behind and host Stanford but played without four-time All-America Olivia Mehaffey due to COVID protocol. Mehaffey will be back for the postseason after first trying to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open on Tuesday in Pittsburgh.
ASU’s Linn Grant is ranked No. 4 in Golfweek/Sagarin individual rankings, Ashley Menne 91, Alessandra Fanali 103 and Mehaffey 104. Amanda Linner broke through to finish ninth at Pac-12 Championships.
“Even if Olivia didn’t play last week, we know she’s always ready to go,” said Grant, a sophomore from Sweden. “Without her, we did a good job as a team and kept it together. Fortunately coach Michelle (Estill) and coach Missy have been to Columbus and know the course. Even a score on par will be good. I think that’s to our advantage. Even our fifth player is a really good player.”
The ASU men duked it out with Arizona at the Pac-12 Championships, ending Tuesday in Santa Rosa, California. Arizona won by four strokes and it is tantalizing to image a match-play pairing of the in-state rivals during nationals.
Chun An Yu and Ryggs Johnston tied for fourth individually at the Pac-12 meet and David Puig tied for eighth, a big three if you will that seems to be peaking at the right time.
“The competition is better than ever with all these seniors coming back,” Thurmond said. “Our team is excellent, and we’re getting beat by some teams. The Arizona team that beat us has five seniors. Oklahoma is No. 1 right now, they’re loaded. It’s going to be a great competition (nationals). We’ve got to get here first, but we can handle the pressure and we’ll find a way to get here.”
Johnston said, “We’ve been trending upward lately. We haven’t really brought our best to any tournament yet so in a way I guess that be a good sign. We go (to regional) knowing our best is yet to come hopefully. That’s something to look forward to.”
The ASU teams have something of a home course advantage at Grayhawk given multiple opportunities to play the Raptor course, but more than 30 other men’s and women’s teams also have come to town for a test run on the desert course.
“Oregon and Oklahoma State won national championships when they hosted, but those were all places where nobody was allowed to go play it,” Thurmond said. “ASU to our credit pushed very aggressively to allow anyone and everyone to come play here, which in the past it was the opposite. The host team wouldn’t allow anyone near the course.
“So we gave away a lot of advantage, but we thought it was the best thing for the championship. All these teams have flown in, played a few rounds. They go back and prepare for it. It just adds to the energy around the event.”
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2021/04/30/scottsdale-grayhawk-three-weeks-away-ncaa-championships/