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Golf takes second place in C-USA Tournament

By Paul Fitzgerald     5/16/10 7:00pm

With its season on the brink, the golf team had just one tournament left to keep their season going. But despite the pressure, Christopher Brown (Brown '10) and the Owls came up big, taking a second-place finish to clinch a berth in the NCAA Regionals in College Station on May 20- 22. The Rice golf team has had a successful season, winning two team titles and two individual titles prior to the Conference USA Championship in Sorrento, Fla.

Despite the team's titles, erratic play down the stretch placed the Owls in a precarious position prior to the conference tournament. Four consecutive finishes outside of the top five dropped Rice in Golfstat's rankings. The team's lone top-five finish in the season's final competitions, a third-place finish at the Jim West Intercollegiate, was considered somewhat disappointing due to the tournament's weak field.

Rice's golfers were able to put all these doubts aside at the Red Tail Golf Club, opening with a first round 295 (+7), three shots back of host University of Central Florida. Brown led the Owls with a first-round 70, while senior Michael Whitehead continued his consistent play with an even-par 72.

Rice improved upon its first-round 295 with a second-round 290 that once again left them in second place behind UCF, five shots back. While Brown continued his great play with a 69, freshman Jade Scott also helped out by matching Brown's 69 with one of his own. Scott's final round 75 left him in a tie for 24th.

With the understanding that a top-three finish was crucial to their postseason hopes, Rice looked to hold their place on the leaderboard. Brown and Whitehead assured that, with Brown posting a 70 and Whitehead a 71 leaving Rice in a tie for second with the University of Southern Mississippi.

Michael Buttacavoli's (Martel '10) three-round score of 226 left him in a tie for 32nd, while sophomore Brock Wilson finished in a tie for 54th. Whitehead's final round left him in a tie for 10th, while Brown's brilliant play all week left him alone at the top of the leaderboard, four shots ahead of the rest of the field.

While the senior was pleased to garner the individual honor, he was glad he could help his team out.

"It's great for me to leave something behind at Rice in my final year here," Brown said. "To play like I did at conference and to win by the margin I did, I think really helped us out."

Brown has been the Owls' top performer this spring, notching a victory at the Rice Intercollegiate to start the spring and then most recently at the C-USA Championship. The senior's play over the course of his final year at Rice earned him first team All-C-USA honors from the conference coaches. Also honored were Head Coach Drew Scott (Wiess '98) as the conference's Coach of the Year and Jade Scott as Freshman of the Year.

Coach Scott felt the honors were indicative of the program's success.

"Rewards at the end of the year are based on the whole year, so for Jade to earn that award is outstanding," Scott said. "As for the coach award, I feel like I've arrived amongst my peers, but I also tip my hat to the guys because they helped put me there."

While the team played well throughout the year, their late season drought meant they had to wait a bit to learn their fate. But the call came on May 10, when the Owls learned that they were the 11th seed of 14 teams at the Regional Tournament hosted by Texas A&M University May 20-22 at Traditions Club in College Station, Texas.

Scott was pleased with the team's assignment.

"There are certainly some positives to playing at Texas A&M, namely that it's close by," Scott said. "Travel hassles aren't a worry; the conditions will be similar to what we see in Houston, and we'll already have seen a lot of the teams at the same Regional as us."

While 14 teams will compete in College Station, only five of the teams, plus the low-scoring individual not on an advancing team, will move onto to the NCAA Championships in Chattanooga, Tenn., at the beginning of June.

While Brown knows Rice has the talent to advance, he is also aware the team has their work cut out for them.

"We've seen a lot of the teams there, and had some success in the tournaments in which we played against them, so we know we're a pretty good team," Brown said. "None of the teams are unbeatable, and I think we can do some things if we play good golf all three rounds.

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