UA likes lay of links-style course

Published: Friday, May 23, 2014
Arkansas' Taylor Moore on the fifth green during the opening round of the NCAA men's Regional Golf Tournament Thursday, May 16, 2013 at the Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville.
Photo by Anthony Reyes
Arkansas' Taylor Moore on the fifth green during the opening round of the NCAA men's Regional Golf Tournament Thursday, May 16, 2013 at the Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Instead of watching the final round of The Masters on April 13, the Arkansas men's golf team hustled up to Hutchinson, Kan., to get in a round at Prairie Dunes Country Club, site of the NCAA Championships, which start today.

"We were planning on making the championships, so we wanted to see the golf course a little bit, get a feel for it," Arkansas Coach Brad McMakin said.

NCAA Men’s Championship

WHAT 54 holes of stroke play, followed by three rounds of match play

WHERE Hutchinson, Kan.

COURSE Prairie Dunes Country Club (par 70, 6,940 yards)

WHEN Today-Wednesday

FORMAT Golfers will compete in stroke play today through Sunday to determine top eight teams. They will compete in match play Monday through Wednesday.

TOP 16 SEEDS 1. Alabama, 2. Oklahoma State, 3. Stanford, 4. Georgia Tech, 5. California, 6. Georgia, 7. Washington, 8. Illinois, 9. Virginia Tech, 10. Houston, 11. Arkansas, 12. Alabama-Birmingham, 13. Oklahoma, 14. Vanderbilt, 15. LSU, 16. Texas

NOTEWORTHY Arkansas is making its 20th appearance at the NCAA Championships and its fourth in eight seasons under Coach Brad McMakin. … Ten SEC teams are in the 30-team NCAA Championship field. … Defending NCAA champion Alabama leads the 10-team contingent as the No. 1 seed, while 2013 NCAA runner-up Illinois is the No. 8 seed. … Prairie Dunes hosted the 2002 U.S. Women’s Open and the 2006 U.S. Senior Open. … Tournament host is Wichita State.

Arkansas tee time 1:30 p.m. off No. 1 with playing partners Alabama-Birmingham and Houston

Arkansas lineup

Sebastian Cappelen (71.4 stroke average), Taylor Moore (72.4), Kolton Crawford (73.6), Nicolas Echavarria (73.8), Blake Biddle (77.6)

The No. 11 seed Razorbacks found out enough in that trial run to know that scoring will be tough on the challenging par-70 course that measures 6,940 yards. Arkansas will open play at its fourth NCAA Championships in eight seasons under McMakin at 1:30 p.m. today, teeing off with 10th seed Houston and 12th seed Alabama-Birmingham on No. 1.

Arkansas senior Sebastian Cappelen, a three-time All-American, described the Prairie Dunes layout as "very not-American," and much more akin to the links-style golf he played as a junior player growing in Europe.

"Not completely links like you would see in Scotland, but it's got a lot of it to it," said Cappelen, whose home course in Denmark is prone to windy conditions. "It's going to be interesting if the wind blows."

McMakin said his players worked at shots on their home course, The Blessings, that should be suited for Prairie Dunes, which was selected as the nation's No. 13 classic course this year by Golf Week.

"We've had a lot of wind the last couple of days," McMakin said Tuesday. "We've been trying to keep it low and kind of roll it on the ground. The course is going to be really difficult, from what I understand. Anything can happen this week."

Arkansas sophomore Nicolas Echavarria said the round at Prairie Dunes was fun and informative.

"It's a tough course and you've got to know where you're going to hit your ball," said Echavarria, whose career postseason scoring average is a team-best 70.3. "There are some spots you can't be because you can't get it up and down."

Golfweek's Bradley S. Klein wrote this week that golfers who have honed their games on practice ranges and tree-lined courses may have a rough go on the links-style course that usually plays in a steady wind.

"Fifteen mph is standard," Klein wrote. "All sorts of wild and unpredictable things can happen to the ball here -- in the air and when it touches down and starts rolling. Pace of play likely will be glacial. Scores will also be on the high side."

The Razorbacks jumped 12 places in the weekly Golfstat rankings, to No. 12, after their second-place finish in the NCAA Columbia (Mo.) Regional last week, and they are in high spirits.

"When we're at our best we're one of the best teams in the country, and I think we proved that last week," said sophomore Taylor Moore, who was tied for second in Columbia after two rounds but finished 11th.

"We're definitely pumped up, for sure," said Kolton Crawford, a sophomore who was Arkansas' low man with an 8 under at last week's regional. "We shot our low round of the year, 18 under, and we're just trying to build off of that and take that into nationals."

The anticipated conditions in central Kansas don't faze the Hogs.

"It's usually pretty windy up here in the Ozarks, so it'll definitely play to our advantage going to a place that's obviously pretty windy," Crawford said.

Cappelen, who tied with Echavarria at 7 under in the NCAA regional, was misfiring with his putter in Columbia, an issue he plans to correct in Kansas.

"I hit the ball really well, and if I had just putted decently it would've meant a lot of shots difference," Cappelen said.

McMakin has inserted senior transfer Blake Biddle in the fifth spot occupied by Springdale freshman Zach Coats last week. Biddle has two top-10 NCAA regional finishes from his first two seasons at UNLV.

"I've played in a lot of big tournaments so I'm not worried about that at all," Biddle said. "It's obviously awesome getting to represent this golf team, this university, this state."

Sports on 05/23/2014