Written by: Matthew Sokol, Campbell blog contributor
Emotions were sky high as the Campbell Men’s Golf team watched the NCAA Regional Selection Show inside the golf offices at the McKay House, deciding their postseason fate.
The Fighting Camels finished as the runners-up for the Big South Championship, and received an at-large berth as one of the last teams in for the NCAA regional which will take place May 16-18 in Kohler, Wisc., releasing plenty of tense feelings during the Golf Channel’s hour-long selection show Thursday morning.
One of the main leaders on the team this season was junior Craig Hornberger, who individually tied for 8th place overall at the recent Big South Tournament.
“It is overwhelming and exciting to get in (to the NCAA Regionals), and we worked so hard for this all season,” said Hornerberger. “It is (also) exciting for a small private school like Campbell to be able to put both of our teams into an NCAA tournament.”
Campbell is ranked 65th overall in the latest Golfstat NCAA Division-I poll. Colorado, who was ranked 66th overall, was the final team to earn an at-large berth among the 81 schools to receive bids and will compete in the Tuscaloosa, Ala., regional. Campbell will enter the NCAA Regional as an 11-seed in their respective bracket, with the top five schools qualifying for the NCAA Tournament.
For the first time in school history, both the Campbell men’s and women’s squad qualified for the NCAA regional championships in the same year. Despite being one of the last teams to make the NCAA Tournament, Campbell is confident in their ability to take that next step come postseason play.
“The team realizes their potential now,” said assistant coach Weston Eklund. “They saw what the potential is, and I know they can do better. They are always going to strive for more, and we have a great group of guys, where I think they will step up.”
This season, the squad has worked hard notching two tournament victories, and closing out as the top-five teams on seven other occasions in 11 outings. In addition to the two victories on the year, the Fighting Camels came in second place four different times. Three of those four second-place finishes came during the spring campaign.
In addition to the automatic qualifier, Liberty, both Campbell and Charleston Southern provided the Big South with a record of three regional berths from the conference. Liberty is the 11-seed at the Albuquerque regional, while Charleston Southern will be the 10-seed in the Tuscaloosa Regional, one of the six total regionals.
“We were not getting into the NCAA tournament before the last regional, and we got a little bit nervous,” said junior Gaston Bertinotti. “We were relieved with so much energy we had inside, and when we saw our name on the television, the sight was pretty good.”
Campbell head coach John Crooks has two teams that are competing in national tournament play. Crooks is currently with the women’s team in Bryan, Texas at the NCAA Tournament, and had to receive updates about his men’s team over the phone.
In fact, Campbell is one of just 47 schools nationwide to earn a team bid this year to both the NCAA men’s and women’s golf regional championships.
This regional berth marks the eighth time that Crooks has been the coach for a regional team or individual qualifier on the men’s side. Coupled with 19 women’s regional appearances, Campbell boasts a lineup that has 42 rounds of experience in NCAA post-season play. Crooks has mentored his men’s and women’s programs to 27 postseason trips since taking over the helm in the fall of 1990.
The Fighting Camels start tournament play on May 16 at the Blackwolf Run Meadow Valleys Course in Kohler, Wisconsin.