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Stage set for desert showdown with NCAA championships on the line
Junior Maverick McNealy (above) will lead the Cardinal's five-man lineup into the NCAA Tucson Regional as Stanford seeks its third straight qualification for the NCAA Championships. (CASEY VALENTINE/stanfordphoto.com)

Stage set for desert showdown with NCAA championships on the line

The red-hot No. 1 Stanford men’s golf team will begin in earnest its pursuit of its first national title since 2007 on Monday morning when it tees off at the NCAA Tucson Regional in Tucson, Arizona at the Gallery Golf Club at Dove Mountain. The event will take place over the course of three days, with the top five teams advancing to the finals in Eugene, Oregon in two weeks.

Stanford was named the top seed out of the 14 teams competing at the regional after winning its third consecutive Pac-12 championship two weeks ago in Salt Lake City. The Cardinal’s region will also include four other ranked teams: No. 12 Wake Forest, No. 13 Cal, No. 24 Oregon and No. 25 North Carolina.

The Cardinal are absolutely getting hot at the right time: Stanford wrapped up its regular season with a 10-stroke victory over the field at the Western Intercollegiate in Santa Cruz and followed that up with a dominating effort at the Pac-12s, where the Cardinal dominated the par-4s to finish 29 strokes ahead of second-place Cal.

All the pieces are seemingly in place for Stanford to make another deep run into the postseason: Stanford has a proven superstar in Maverick McNealy, a seasoned corps of upperclassmen, and consistency over the last two months (the Cardinal haven’t finished lower than fourth at a tournament since February).

However, tough conditions could be a factor that might hold Stanford back. The event will be contested during what looks to be a blustery stretch in the Arizona desert, particularly on Monday, when winds are forecasted to consistently hang around 15 to 20 miles an hour, with gusts up to 45 at times.

If the winds are particularly gusty, it could introduce a lot of variability in tee shots on the par-4s and par-5s, which is where Stanford has really made a splash in its last two victories at the Western Intercollegiate and at the Pac-12 championships. But as always, the Cardinal have faced a variety of different challenges in getting this far — it’s safe to assume that their preparation is going to be more than adequate.

Instead of the play-six, score-five format of the Pac-12 championships, the NCAA regional will be a play-five, score-four event, meaning that junior Viraat Badhwar won’t be scoring for the team. The Cardinal will count the four best scores in each round between McNealy, senior David Boote, sophomore Franklin Huang, sophomore Jeffrey Swegle and freshman Brandon Wu.

Stanford finished second at the NCAA regional last year before taking 21st in stroke play at the finals in Bradenton. Two years ago, Stanford swept the Pac-12 and NCAA regional titles before taking second in the nation in match play.

The Cardinal will tee off at 7 a.m. in the first group alongside Wake Forest and Cal, seeking their third straight qualification for the NCAA finals.

 

Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dhpark ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Do-Hyoung Park

Do-Hyoung Park '16 honestly isn't quite sure what he does for The Stanford Daily anymore, apart from the fact that he still writes a lot about football, gets cranky at the sports editors and scares away the new freshmen. He also writes for (or has written for) The Bootleg, Sports Illustrated and MLB.com and has been a four-time Managing Editor at The Daily. After graduating in June with degrees in Chemical Engineering and Computer Science, he's begrudgingly staying on for his master's in Chemical Engineering as well. Please feel free to bother him at dhpark 'at' stanford.edu.