Coastal Georgia men’s golf team will spend the next four days searching for an oasis in the Arizona desert.
The top-ranked Mariners begin play in the NAIA National Championship today at the Las Sendas Golf Club in Mesa, Ariz., where they’ll look to capture the program’s third national title.
“We can’t wait to compete,” Coastal Georgia head coach Mike Cook said in a statement.
The Mariners have done more than just compete, as they make their sixth appearance in the national championship having won seven of nine tournaments this season while finishing second in the two others.
If Coastal Georgia wins the title, it would tie the program’s record for tournament wins in a single season set by the Mariners’ last championship team in 2015.
It’ll be a lineup featuring two of the top three players in the country in Mark David Johnson and Eli Scott, in addition to Jackson Lawlor, Chip Thompson, and Shaun Margeson that will look to etch their names in the program’s history books.
Johnson, the lone senior in the lineup, was The Sun Conference Player of the Year and spent most of the spring ranked No. 1 in the NAIA. He is currently the No. 2 rated player, just ahead of teammate and Mariner freshman Scott at No. 3.
Scott was an all-conference pick and won the individual title in a field stacked with the top players in the country at the NAIA Battle at the Primm on the outskirts of Las Vegas.
Lawlor was also an all-conference pick for the Mariners while Thompson was low-man for the Mariners with his fourth-place finish in The Sun Conference Championship.
Margeson finds a spot in Coastal’s five-man lineup for the first time this spring, but he’s no stranger to the big stage after winning the MTC Men’s Amateur Championship last summer back home in Nova Scotia, Canada.
“All of the guys have been working on certain areas of their games,” Cook said. “They feel good about their games.”
The Mariners participated in an official practice round at the 6,925-yard, par-71 Hilly Desert Course of Las Sendas Golf Club on Monday, and despite rugged terrain winding through the Usery Mountains at nearly 1,800 feet above the desert floor, it’s nothing Coastal hasn’t seen before.
“It’s sort of like the Primm where we won in March, but it’s tougher,” Cook said.
The Battle at the Primm featured seven of the top 25 teams at the time, but the NAIA Championship is set to be even more competitive in a field that includes includes 156 players from the 19 automatic qualifying teams, a host berth, and 10 teams with at-large invitations, in addition to six players competing as individuals.
The Mariners will be one of five teams from The Sun Conference competing in the national tournament — the most teams in the field. Joining Coastal Georgia are: USC-Beaufort, Keiser, Johnson & Wales and Thomas University.
Coastal will be among the first group to tee off today, beginning at 8:30 a.m. eastern, along with in-state rival Dalton State and Rocky Mountain College.
The same group is scheduled to tee off on Round 2 at 1:10 p.m. on Wednesday, after which the field will be cut in half. The remaining teams will be paired up again for the third round following the cut.