SU to open NAIA Nat'l Championship alongside defending champs
KANSAS CITY -- As the old saying goes: to be the best, you must beat the best.
What better way for the Shorter University men's golf team to open the 2011 NAIA Men's Golf National Championship than to lace up its spikes with the defending national champions.
The NAIA released today its first and second round pairings for the 60th annual event that will take place at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill., May 24–27 and it is the Hawks who will go out as part of the tournament's first group in the first round.
Shorter, ranked 11th in the final regular season NAIA Top 25 Coaches' Poll, will tee off at 8 a.m. ET on May 24 alongside No. 1-ranked and 2010 national champion Oklahoma City University and unranked Union University (Tenn.), which appeared in the receiving votes category in the final ratings.
The Hawks are making a return a return trip to the national championships after a banner 2010-11 campaign that saw the team post eight top-three finishes and capture three tournament championships.
Shorter received an at-large bid to nationals as the highest rated team in the Southern States Athletic Conference -- the SSAC sent three teams to Illinois -- and are coming off a third place finish at the SSAC Championships in Columbus two weeks ago.
The Hawks will tee off at the No. 1 tee to start their tournament. Shorter, Oklahoma City and Union will then tee off as the final group at 2:30 p.m. ET from the No. 10 tee in the second round on May 25.
Shorter enters the 2011 Championships led by senior All-American Arvid Bengtson, who claimed medalist honors in addition to 2011 SSAC Men's Golfer of the Year accolades at the SSAC Championships.
Bengtson posted a fifth place individual finish at the national tournament in 2010 as Shorter's lone representative. This time around, the Swede, who has yet to finish outside of the top 10 in any tournament this season, will bring with him a group of four freshmen, each of which has the ability to challenge for an individual title.
First-year athletes Nick Burns, Ethan Lambert, Erwan Vieilledent and Matt Youmans will tackle the course with Bengtson.
Youmans finished as the 2011 SSAC runner-up after a playoff with Bengtson, Vieilledent has tasted victory as an individual this season and Burns and Lambert have consistently shot low numbers for the Hawks, who are in search of the program's first-ever national championship.