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ETSU set for NCAA golf regional

Joe Avento • Updated May 14, 2017 at 7:57 PM

East Tennessee State University golf coach Fred Warren says his team has improved as the spring has gone on.

That’s a good thing, because the Bucs are about to step into some deep water.

ETSU will be playing in the NCAA regionals for the fourth consecutive year. They’re assigned to the College Grove Regional, being played at The Grove Club just outside of Franklin, Tennessee.

It starts Monday and the 54-hole tournament runs through Wednesday. The top five teams and the top individual not on those teams will advance to the NCAA Championship, set for May 26-31 at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Illinois.

“The regional is the toughest week of the year,” Warren said. “There’s a lot of pressure and people react differently. At the end of the season, teams are playing well and you have to raise your game.”

The Bucs drew a tough regional, too. Included in the field are Southeastern Conference champion Vanderbilt, Texas Tech, Clemson and Georgia.

Also playing will be two of ETSU’s former foes in the Atlantic Sun Conference, Lipscomb and Kennesaw State.

In addition, Warren will be coaching against one of his former players. Brennan Webb, who played at ETSU and graduated in 1997, is the head coach at Middle Tennessee State, the host school for the regional.

The Bucs are seeded 12th out of the 13 teams.

“We’re obviously a long shot,” Warren said. “Based on the rankings, we’re going in with low expectations, which might not be bad. Coaches have different expectations.

“We have some talent. If everybody played their best, we’d have a chance.”

The Bucs made the NCAA field — it’s the program’s 26th appearance — by winning the Southern Conference tournament for the third year in a row.

“Obviously, we’re taking some confidence from winning the conference championship,” Warren said. “We started improving toward the end of the spring.”

Mateusz Gradecki, ETSU’s lone senior, has been the team’s top player all year. Sophomore Guentae Kim won the Southern Conference individual championship in a playoff. Red-shirt freshman Trevor Hulbert finished one shot out of the playoff.

Also going to the regional for the Bucs will be junior Cayman Ratliff and freshman Kevin Burns.

“We have a pretty young team, so this will be good experience for us,” Warren said. “We have some pretty good players at the top. It just depends if we can get a fourth score.

“It’ll be great experience for the guys for the future. The team should be strong the next couple of years. It should be good for the guys.”

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