May 16, 2012
CHICAGO - After a three-week break from action, the Loyola University Chicago men's golf team will make its first-ever postseason appearance when it opens play in the 2012 NCAA Men's Golf Championship tomorrow. The 14th-seeded Ramblers will compete in the Norman Regional at Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club in Norman, Okla., May 17-19.
Loyola will be challenged by arguably the toughest field of teams in a NCAA Regional this spring, as five of the top 30 and eight of the top 47 squads according to Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings will be playing in the Norman Regional. Leading that cast of teams is No. 1 ranked Texas, with Georgia Teach (No. 9), Washington (No. 13), Florida State (No. 24) and host Oklahoma (No. 30) also in the field.
Also competing at the Norman Regional is Saint Mary's (No. 34), Illinois (No. 32), Middle Tennessee (No. 47), South Carolina (No. 53), San Diego (No. 61), Arizona (No. 60), Sacramento State (No. 84) and IUPUI (No. 113). The course features a par-72, Perry Maxwell design that covers 7,387 yards from the championship tees.
Four of the top 11 players in the country, according to Golfweek, will be in action at the Norman Regional - top-ranked Jordan Spieth and Dylan Frittelli (No. 2) of Texas, Chris Williams (No. 7) of Washington and Luke Guthrie (No. 11) of Illinois.
Head coach Adam Kwiatkoski's Loyola squad has played its best golf since April 1, winning three of its four meets since that date. Included in those tournament titles were first-place showings at the Hotels at Grand Prairie Invitational, Detroit Titans Invitational and Horizon League Championship.
Led by sophomore All-Horizon League honoree Alex Cusumano (St. Louis, Mo./Westminster Christian Academy), who has posted a 74.3 average in his last 12 rounds while finishing third or better in three of his last four events, Loyola earned its first NCAA Regional berth by overcoming a 13-stroke deficit after one round of play to edge Green Bay by two strokes at the Horizon League Championship, April 27-29, at Mission Inn Resort in Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla.
Cusumano hasn't been the only Rambler to shine this spring however. After seeing limited action during the fall, sophomore Nick Willenborg (Knoxville, Tenn./Knoxville Catholic) has been one of the steadiest performers on the roster this spring posting a 75.7 average in 10 rounds, and he was named to the all-tournament team at the Horizon League Championship after tying for sixth place with a 227 (75-75-77).
Loyola's lineup also features freshman Nick Dennis (Waterford, Mich./Brother Rice), who has been a model of consistency in his rookie campaign. In 27 rounds, Dennis has shot 80 or higher just three times and has four top-10 finishes to his credit, including a tie for sixth at the Horizon League Championship (77-74-76=227), which earned him a spot on the all-tournament team. Senior Erik Hoops (Perrysburg, Ohio/Perrysburg) sports a 76.3 average and has posted three top-ten finishes this season, while shooting under 70 on three occasions. Rounding out the lineup is sophomore Sean Hickey (Farmington, Mich./St. Mary's Preparatory), who tied for 10th at the Hotels at Grand Prairie Invitational (77-75-76=228) in April.
NCAA Regional format consists of 54 holes played over three days. The low five teams and individuals not on advancing teams from each regional will advance to the NCAA Championship, May 29-June 3 in Pacific Palisades, Calif.
Tee times begin Thursday (May 17) at 8 a.m. Fans can follow the action through Live Scoring at http://www.soonersports.com/ncaa/2012_mgolf_regional.html.