The Bucs have won the past three SoCon tournaments, giving them 20 team championships throughout the years, seven more than their nearest competitor, Furman.
The 54-hole tournament runs Sunday through Tuesday at Pinehurst No. 9 in Pinehurst, North Carolina. It’s the same course where ETSU has won the past three years.
“Pinehurst No. 9 is a very good test of golf, which I like,” ETSU coach Fred Warren said. “Good shots are rewarded, and hopefully that will help us. We’ve gotten better throughout the year. Some of our guys are playing well right now.”
ETSU junior Geuntae Kim is the defending SoCon champion. He outlasted UNC Greensboro’s Jonathan Brightwell in a sudden-death playoff last year. Kim is one of two players in the field to have won a tournament this year, taking medalist honors at the Wofford Invitational. Western Carolina senior Dylan McQueen has won two events.
ETSU also won the Wofford Invitational as a team, making it the only team in this year’s SoCon field with a tournament championship.
“We’ve had some flashes of brilliance at times, but we haven’t put it all together,” said Warren, who has been the SoCon’s coach of the year 10 times, including the last three years. “I’m hoping one day we get a lot of guys playing well at the same time. If we do that, we could be pretty good.”
Kim comes into the tournament averaging 72.86 strokes per round, ranking fifth in the conference.
Freshman Shiso Go, who made a name for himself with a 63 at the Blackthorn Intercollegiate, leads ETSU with an average score of 72.41. That ranks second in the SoCon behind Furman’s Keller Harper (72.17).
Bucs sophomore Trevor Hulbert, who missed out on last year’s playoff by one stroke, is 11th in the conference at 73.35.
Also playing for the Bucs will be freshmen Jack Rhea (73.97) and Austin Carter (74.62).
“I look at this as a talented, young team that has just kind of worked at it,” Warren said. “What we haven’t established yet is a dominant player. But with three freshmen, it’s hard. They’re all talented, but it’s a different level of golf. Courses are harder, competition is tougher. With all of that, there’s an adjustment. Our guys have handled it overall pretty well.”
The champion receives the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.