Baylor men’s golf coach Mike McGraw has been to almost as many NCAA golf championships, in his career at Oklahoma State and Baylor, over the years as the players on his current team have been alive. But as he prepares to lead his Baylor team to the NCAA Men’s Golf Championship at The Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Arkansas, starting Friday, the veteran coach says he takes nothing for granted.

“They are all special and I want the players to enjoy it, but this should be the standard,” McGraw said. “We should expect to be here and complete and that’s what I think we will do this week.

“The way I look at it, we’re currently tied for the lead for the national title.”

This is fourth straight year Baylor has qualified for the NCAA Championships, with the 2017 team making the final eight in match play, only to lose to eventual national championship Oklahoma. Last year didn’t go as well, as the Bears finished 30th in the 30-team field.

McGraw feels like this year’s team has gotten steadily better as the season has progressed and is ready to make some noise in the hills of Northwest Arkansas.

“I feel like we have a chip on our shoulder,” said junior Cooper Dorsey. “People may not be expecting us to do much, but we can go up there and prove them wrong. My freshman year (2017) was incredible, but last year not so much. That was a wake-up call to be prepared for every day and every team.”

The NCAA tournament has a unique format of three days of stroke play, with a cut to the low 15 teams after that. The low eight teams advance to match play after the fourth round, with the national champion crowned two days later.

Oklahoma State is the defending national champion and also won the 2019 Big 12 Stroke play title and their NCAA Regional. Baylor was the 2018-2019 Big 12 Match Play Champion, defeating OSU in the finals.

“I feel we’re in a good spot going into the (NCAA) tournament,” said senior Garrett May, who is from Hope, Arkansas. “We have been quietly efficient this spring and while we didn’t win our regional (finishing third behind OSU), we played some off our best golf of the season. People will overlook us in the nationals and we have a chance to prove otherwise.”

McGraw noted that the tournaments before this one have little bearing now.

“NCAA golf is a season we’re people don’t really care much about what you do early in the year, it’s a matter of getting better as the season goes on, and that’s what I think we’ve done,” McGraw said.

Braden Bailey, a member of the 2017 Baylor NCAA match play qualifier, will be part of the Bears squad for this week in his final NCAA tournament as a senior. Baylor also has some talented young players in Ryan Grider and Brandon Hoff.

Before the actual tournament begins Friday, at the par-72, 7,550-yard Blessings Course, Baylor already picked up another national award.

Colin Kober, a junior at Baylor, was the recipient of the Elite 90 Award for the 2019 NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championships.

Kober, who holds a 4.0 cumulative grade point average while majoring in accounting, was presented with the award during the Men’s Golf Championships banquet on Thursday, in Fayetteville. It is the second straight year that Kober has won the award.

The Elite 90, an award founded by the NCAA 10 years ago, recognizes the true essence of the student-athlete by honoring the individual who has reached the pinnacle of competition at the national championship level in his or her sport, while also achieving the highest academic standard among his or her peers. The Elite 90 is presented to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade point average participating at the finals site for each of the NCAA’s championships.

Eligible student-athletes are sophomores or above who have participated in their sport for at least two years with their school. They must be an active member of the team, traveling and a designated member of the squad size at the championship. All ties are broken by the number of credits completed.

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