For a golfer, unfamiliarity with a course can breed a feeling of worry.
Other than a practice round Sunday, the Baylor men’s golf team has never played at the University of Louisville Golf Club, site of the Louisville Regional that will begin Monday in Simpsonville, Ky. Senior Braden Bailey even noted “I’ve never been to Kentucky in my life.”
But given the magic of technology, there’s really no such thing as flying blind anymore.
Baylor’s coaches and players have studied up on the Louisville Golf Club via drone footage, and they feel confident they’ve got a good handle on the layout entering regional play.
“The golf course has a drone footage flyover of every hole, and it’s very, very easy. You can hit the pause button and stop it,” Baylor coach Mike McGraw said. “So, we used that in conjunction with the yardage book that we had in advance. So, everybody on the team has seen it. That’s not perfect, but it is a way that at least you have an idea of what it looks like and what we’re basically going to expect.”
Ranked 25th in the country, the Bears will be the fifth-seeded team among the 13-team field in Kentucky. No. 1-ranked Oklahoma State is the top seed, followed by Auburn, North Florida and host Louisville along with Baylor to round out the top five.
Baylor turned in an erratic showing in its last outing at the Big 12 Tournament in late April in West Virginia. The Bears sprayed some shots around the course on the first day and finished 13-over after one round. But McGraw said they “played beautifully” thereafter, shooting 7-under for the final two rounds.
“So, I think we probably are playing a lot better than any of the recent results,” said McGraw, whose team finished sixth at the Big 12 tourney.
They’ll need to play well to finish among the top five teams in Louisville to advance to the NCAA Championships for the fourth consecutive year. McGraw has preached a “pedal to the metal” mindset to his players, figuring if they play to win the regional, they should be in good shape to advance.
In a manner of speaking, the Bears need to go for the green.
“We have a pretty high level of confidence,” junior Colin Kober said. “We’re more motivated than anything, I think. That’s going to help a lot. I think we’re just ready to go out there and have some fun, for sure.”
Baylor’s five-player team for regionals will consist of senior Garrett May, Bailey, Kober, junior Cooper Dossey and sophomore Ryan Grider, with sophomore Mark Reppe serving as the substitute. May is coming off a season-best fifth-place individual finish at the Big 12 tourney in which he shot rounds of 73, 66 and 66 to finish at 5-under 205. Kober carries a team-best 71.70 stroke average, and owns three top 10 finishes and two top 5 showings in eight tournaments.
“Top five from each regional go (to the NCAA Championships),” McGraw said. “So, if we did what we’re supposed to do relative to rankings, we would get the fifth spot. I don’t want the fifth spot, I want to win. And if we play like we’re trying to win, we should have a very good week.”