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Online only: Golf on the bubble for postseason after 10th-place finish

By Paul Fitzgerald     4/8/10 7:00pm

Facing stiff competition, the golf team could not crack the top half of the leader board at the BancorpSouth Intercollegiate, leaving the team on the bubble for postseason play.Looking for a strong performance at the Intercollegiate, hosted by the University of Mississippi, the Owls stumbled out of the gate with a first-round score of 298, placing them in the back half of the 15-team field immediately. Senior Christopher Brown led Rice with a two under-par 70. However, no other golfers for Rice posted scores of par or under, and the team entered the second round of play in 11th place.

Brown once again led Rice with a second-round score of 70, as the senior continued his strong play. Brown has played terrific in his final season at Rice, notching his first career victory earlier this spring at the Rice Intercollegiate, Rice's home event.

Freshman Jade Scott shot a second-round one-under 71, his best round of the tournament, and would go on to finish in a tie for 28th. Senior Michael Buttacavoli shot an even-par 72, helping to move the Owls up to ninth place heading into Tuesday's final round of action.

Looking for a strong final round that would move them up the leaderboard, the Owls disappointed, posting a cumulative score of 293, leaving them in sole possession of 10th place. Junior Michael Whitehead led the Owls in the third round, posting a one-under 71 that was his best round of the tournament and left him in a tie for 28th place. Brown's final-round 75 put him in a tie for 10th place.

While the Owls' 10th-place finish fell below their expectations, the team was only five shots out of fifth place and seven shots out of fourth, leaving them tantalizingly close to a result that would have most likely secured a berth in NCAA Regionals, given the strong field at the BancorpSouth.

Brown felt that the team needed to put the fast few tournaments behind them and move forward.

"It's no secret that our poor play over the past few weeks is a mental thing," Brown said. "We had a great opportunity last week against a tough field, and we didn't take it, so we need to sharpen some things up over the next few days and move onto our next event."

Through Tuesday's action, the team was ranked 63rd nationally, according to Golfstat. 84 teams make NCAA Regionals, and every team that wins their conference tournament is granted an automatic berth in Regionals. Consequently, Rice's recent performance leaves them sitting on the bubble and makes their upcoming tournaments crucial to their fate.

While Brown acknowledged the team faces some pressure, the senior believes they just need to get out and play.

"I'm sure we're going to face some pressure out there, but good golf cures everything," Brown said. "Plain and simple, that's the only thing that can fix this."

The Owls continue play this coming Monday in Victoria, Texas, at the Jim West Intercollegiate. Hosted at Victoria Country Club by Texas State, the event will provide an opportunity for Rice to post a high finish, as the field will not be as strong as the one at Ole Miss.

The team will then travel to Orlando to compete in the Conference USA Tournament, which will be played on Red Tail Golf Club in Sorrento, Fla. The Owls will look to wipe away the memories of last year's eighth-place finish at the conference tournament and help secure a spot in Regionals.

When asked about the importance of making Regionals in his final year at Rice, Brown had a question of his own in return.

"Why else would I play?" Brown asked.

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