Sacramento State’s men’s golf team has been closing in on getting into the top 100 of Golfweek’s college ranking, currently being rated 105 in the country, but the team only wants to focus on being prepared to win conference.
While getting into the top 100 would be a big accomplishment for the program, the ranking that really matters is getting into the top 70 for an automatic bid into the NCAA Regionals. Yet, with only one tournament left before the Big Sky Conference Championship, there isn’t enough time for the team to win an automatic bid.
“Top 100 is an important ranking to the team because it says you’re better than two of every three teams out there, but top 70 is what matters for the auto bid into regionals,” said coach Christopher Hall. “Ranking doesn’t matter a whole bunch right now and we’re just getting ourselves prepared for conference.”
Still, the rankings are something the team takes notice of every week and keeps track of over the course of the year.
“It’s nice to be ranked higher,” said junior Taylor Knoll. “Our primary goal is to win conference because that’s the only way we’re making it to Regionals.”
The team got an excellent test of what it is like to play some of the best competition in the country in their past tournament at the Lone Star Invitational. No. 6 nationally-ranked Texas Tech University, who eventually won the tournament by 11 strokes; No. 34 Ohio State; and No. 38 Southern Louisiana headlined the opponents the Hornets faced in San Antonio.
“It’s good to compete with some of the best in the country,” Knoll said. “We learned a lot from it and what we need to work on to get ready for conference.”
The Hornets ended up finishing in 12th place out of 16 teams and shot a combined score of 872 for the tournament. It is telling of the level of competition that Sac State won an earlier tournament, the Folino Invitational, with a higher score overall score of 875, but finished near the bottom at Lone Star with a score of 872.
The Hornets had a couple of guys who still played excellent golf at Lone Star, but the team overall lost the consistency up and down the lineup that has carried them to high levels of success during the spring semester.
“We were all pretty excited to be playing in that field with good teams,” said junior Aaron Beverly. “We wanted to show what we could do.”
Knoll finished tied for 10th and tied his lowest 54-hole score of the season by shooting a 211. This was his third top 10 finish this season and third in the last four tournaments.
Senior Luke Kristo also played exceptionally well and had one of his best outings of the season. He finished tied for 13th and shot a 212, his second-best 54-hole score on the year.
Hall somewhat expected the team’s play to falter a bit as his plan for the season was for the team to peak during the Sacramento State Invitational, which the team won. The team had just gotten done with four events over the course of a month span and were not 100 percent heading into San Antonio.
“We had a little lull in San Antonio,” Hall said. “We’re just in the process to start peaking again towards conference.”
For their conference tournament starting April 27, the major challenger to the Hornets will be University of Idaho, a team that is currently ranked 80th in the country and features two top 50 golfers, Jared du Toit, ranked No.10, and Aaron Cockerill, ranked 49th.
Ultimately, Hall does not see their finish at the Lone Star Invitational as changing anything toward their goal of winning conference.
“We know what we need to do to win conference,” Hall said.