The East Tennessee State golf team has never won its own tournament, and if it happens this year, it’ll be with its youngest squad ever.
The Bucs open play at the 15th annual Bank of Tennessee Intercollegiate at Blackthorn Club today with a lineup consisting of three freshmen and two sophomores.
“We actually have a very talented team,” ETSU coach Fred Warren said. “We’re young so we realize we’ll be inconsistent and that’s kind of turned up in our first two tournaments. Everybody has done something well. We just haven’t put it together at the same time.”
The youngsters have all shown flashes of brilliance. Putting it together in time for their home tournament will be the goal this weekend.
Adrian Meronk, a freshman from Poland, recently finished tied for seventh in the World Team Amateur in Turkey, where he closed with a 65.
Rhys Pugh, a sophomore from Wales, has already qualified for next year’s British Open by winning the European Amateur last summer. He opened the season with a 66 at the Tar Heel Intercollegiate.
Gudmundur Kristjansson, a freshman from Iceland, has posted a round of 68 in each of his first two tournaments, including his first collegiate round. He has the Bucs’ low scoring average so far this year.
Chris Hickman, a freshman from Maryland, already has a 69 to his credit. Scott Gibson, a sophomore from Scotland, will be the Bucs’ other player. ETSU’s Tom Heggarty and Justin Hulbert will be playing as individuals.
“We have a young team, but we have some good attitudes and some good chemistry,” Warren said. “We just have to be patient with some guys.”
The 54-hole tournament begins today at Blackthorn Club, a par-72 Arthur Hills design that will be playing 7,147 yards. The final round is set for Sunday.
The 13-team field includes four teams ranked in the top 50 of the Golfweek-Sagarin rankings: No. 20 Wake Forest, No. 23 Missouri, No. 31 Tennessee and No. 40 Virginia Tech. ETSU and Wake Forest are the only teams to have played in all 14 previous events here.
Missouri comes into the tournament as the hottest team. The Tigers have won their first three tournaments of the season and have one of the top individuals in the country. Jace Long returns to defend his individual title. Long, ranked second individually by Golfstat.com, tied with N.C. State’s Mark McMillen for the Blackthorn title last year. They shot two under par, the second-highest winning score in the tournament’s history.
The rest of the field is Army, Coastal Carolina, Furman, Memphis, Penn State, Pepperdine, UNC-Wilmington, and Virginia, the 2010 champion. Kent State won’t be back to defend last year’s team title.
Action starts at 8:30 a.m. ETSU is paired with Wake Forest and Missouri and tees off between 11:50 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.