An automatic berth in the NAIA National Golf Tournament will be on the line over the next two days when the 54-hole NAIA Region IX Tournament gets underway at the Apple Valley Golf Course on Thursday morning.
The Mount Vernon Nazarene College men's golf team will be among the competitors in the 10-team field trying to earn a shot at the NAIA national title to be played in Albuquerque, New Mexico, from May 22-26. The Cougars, who are ranked #20 in the most recent NAIA national poll, will be trying to reach the national tournament for only the second time in school history.
Individually, sophomore Chad Gress leads MVNC with a 76.2 stroke average. He will tee off at 9:08 on Thursday morning. Freshman Brian Bumgarner (77.2 strokes) will follow at 9:24 a.m., while senior Matt Durst (78.0 strokes) will begin at 9:32 a.m. Todd Mazur (78.1 strokes) and Nathanael Petry (78.2 strokes) will start at 9:40 a.m. and 9:48 a.m. respectively.
Standing in the Cougars' way to a possible region title is defending NAIA national champion Malone College. The Pioneers are currently ranked second in the NAIA, and they are the heavy favorites heading into this weekend's action. Walsh University, Urbana University, and Shawnee State University should also put up a fight in the highly-competitive event.
"Our team knows what it needs to do this weekend in order to reach the national tournament," said MVNC head coach Mike O'Hara. "We are very capable of playing with any of the teams in this tournament, and we need to be at the top of our game for the next 54 holes. The players are very excited to have this opportunity to compete."
The tournament is set up so that each player is scheduled to play 27 holes on Thursday and 27 holes on Friday. The Cougars finished third at the NAIA Region IX Tournament last year.