LUBBOCK, Texas - Texas Tech begins pursuit of its fourth NCAA Championships appearance in five years as the Red Raiders tee off at the Carpet Capital Collegiate in Rocky Face, Ga., and Friday morning. Considered one of college golf's premier annual events, eight of the 12 teams in the field are ranked among the top 30 nationally.
The Red Raiders are coming off of an impressive 2008 campaign that culminated with a trip to the NCAA Championships in Toledo, Ohio. The team posted two wins last season, finished runner-up at the NCAA Southwest Regional and also posted another top five finish.
Only two players from last year's lineup return as senior Chris Ward (McKinney, Texas) and junior Nils Floren (Ljungskile, Sweden) lead a young, but talented group into this weekend's event. Ward capped his summer by advancing to the round of 32 at the U.S. Amateur last month, while Floren was among the final eight at the British Amateur. Junior Matt Smith (Canberra, Australia) sat as a redshirt last year and has had an explosive offseason, winning the Los Angeles City Championship in June, a tournament he entered on a whim, and advancing to the round of 32 at the U.S. Amateur. The trio is joined by sophomore Brian Scherer (Midland, Texas), whose play helped lead the Red Raiders at the NCAA Southwest Regional, and sophomore Tyler Weworski (Carlsbad, Calif.), who played in one event as a freshman.
Georgia is the highest ranked team in the event at No. 7, according to the Golfweek preseason poll. Alabama is No. 9, followed by No. 17 and tournament-host Georgia Tech, No. 19 South Carolina, No. 20 Tennessee, No. 21 Clemson, Texas Tech at No. 27 and No. 28 Wake Forest. Auburn, Chattanooga, East Tennessee State and Mississippi round out the field.
Texas Tech opened the 2008 season at the Carpet Capital Collegiate, which is held annually at The Farm Golf Club (7,012 yards, par 72). The Red Raider finished tied in eighth place in the 18-team field. Former Red Raiders Garrett Merrell and Santiago Rivas each shot 1-over for the tournament, tying in 13th place to lead Tech.