NEWS, NOTES &
The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
By Bethany Bradsher
Golfers hit the big time, aim
(Photos: ECU Media Relations)
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Press McPhaul had a visual image of what his
East Carolina golfers might do if they qualified for the NCAA National
Championship. In his mind’s eye, McPhaul imagined a dogpile on the 18th
green, like you might see after a World Series victory.
The reality last Sunday, after a second place
finish at the Athens, GA, regional that definitively sealed the Pirates’
first ever trip to collegiate golf’s biggest stage, was considerably less
dramatic. In fact, McPhaul’s Pirates treated the milestone as just another
step on the way to their goal.
“They were very unfazed,” said McPhaul, who
has been to nationals twice as a player at N.C. State and twice as the head
coach at Vanderbilt. “When we got in the van, I thought tenor would be
different. I turned around and told them what a great job they did, and
Harold Varner said from the back, “The job’s not finished yet.’”
When they tee off next Tuesday at the Riviera
Country Club in Pacific Palisades, CA, the Pirates will be the only squad
from either North or South Carolina in attendance at the tournament. It’s a
select invitation issued only to the top 30 teams in the nation – five from
each NCAA Regional.
The Pirates learned on Tuesday that they were
given a No. 23 seed in the field that includes such powerhouses as Texas,
Alabama and UCLA. The Crimson Tide won first place in East Carolina’s
Regional, defeating the rest of the field by 23 strokes.
For the first two rounds of play, the ECU
squad will play with No. 22 seed Oklahoma and No. 24 seed Illinois. The
third round seedings will be based on the scores from those 36 holes, and
the Pirates’ goal is to be one of eight teams still standing when match play
begins on Saturday.
“It’s a really, really good field,” McPhaul
said. “Twenty-two teams are going home after Friday and we don’t want to be
one of them.”
Ryan Eibner, a redshirt sophomore from The
Woodlands, TX, was the Pirates’ pacesetter at the NCAA Regional, shooting a
3-under 210 over three rounds and finishing fourth overall behind three
players from the winning Alabama squad. He said that the ECU golfers have
been characterized this season by encouraging each other and creating a
culture of excellence that allows different players to emerge every
“Anytime someone wouldn’t play good, another
person would, and we would just battle back and forth with each other,”
Eibner said. “We really try to bring each other up.”
As McPhaul has watched the season unfold, he
has been struck by his squad’s consistency – the Pirates have finished in
the top five of every tournament – and by their inner drive that has brought
them to this point. With a strong senior class that includes standouts like
Harold Varner and David Watkins and young contributors like Eibner, it’s a
team with the right formula to shine on a national stage.
order to do something that’s never been done before, you have to think
differently than you’ve ever thought before, sacrifice more than you’ve ever
sacrificed before,” McPhaul said. “This group has done that. They have
accepted the challenge.”
day one of the preseason, the squad has fixed its gaze on the postseason
goals they are now in the middle of achieving, Eibner said. The players
decided they wanted to make it to a regional, qualify for nationals and be
competitive once they arrive. And as they go out onto the course to practice
every day, they see people from the community who recognize that they have
accomplished something special.
“This is awesome,” he said. “We haven’t even
made it to the championship yet, and this is the most fun I’ve had.”
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