FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas golf coach Brad McMakin would like to see his Razorbacks play with controlled aggressiveness when they take on The Cliffs at Keowee Falls course at the NCAA Salem (S.C.) Regional starting this morning.
The No. 35 Razorbacks have a veteran roster but they have struggled through a disjointed season, with no wins and four top-five finishes out of 10 events.
Arkansas will tee off at 7:30 a.m. Central on No. 10 on the 7,126-yard, par 72 layout designed by Jack Nicklaus about half an hour north of Clemson, S.C.
The Razorbacks are the sixth seed at the regional, behind top seed and No. 2 North Carolina, No. 11 Georgia Tech, No. 14 Texas A&M, No. 23 San Diego State and No. 26 Georgia Southern. The top five finishers at the six NCAA regionals will advance to the NCAA Championships at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz. on May 26-31.
Arkansas is coming off a 10th place showing at the SECs on April 19-21 that kept the Razorbacks eligible for the NCAA tournament by just one win with a record of 60-59-2.
“They’re just very aggressive,” McMakin said after hearing senior Segundo Oliva Pinto’s similar description of the senior-laden group. “It’s just their nature. It’s in their DNA, unfortunately.
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“Like [Pinto] said, we can get it going really good and it can go in the other direction. That’s been our weakness. I don’t want to take that away from them. Again, our team has not connected all year long.”
The senior quartet of Pinto, Mateo Fernandez de Oliveira, Wil Gibson and Julian Perico and redshirt sophomore Manuel Lozada have all experienced big successes in their careers.
“I mean we’re definitely an old team and that’s good,” Pinto said.
“I think basically our strength is we play kind of bold golf. We take risks all the time, constantly. We’re a ‘go-for-it’ type of team. That’s also our biggest weakness for sure. When we’re on, we’re on. If we’re not it can get a little out of hand.”
The individual parts say the Razorbacks can be dangerous in the postseason. Pinto won the SEC individual title in 2021. Fernandez de Oliveira won the Latin American Amateur this year and has two collegiate wins and seven other top 10 finishes in his two season at Arkansas, including ninth at last year’s NCAA championships.
Perico has two wins at Arkansas and three top six finishes this year. He won a U.S. Open qualifying round in Wichita Kan., last week and led the Hogs to the 2019 SEC championship with an 8th place showing and 3-0 record in match play.
Gibson, who has two top 10 finishes as a collegian, is coming off a 19th place showing at SECs. Lozada finished fifth at this year’s Latin Amateur.
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“We know we have a competitive regional and there’s a lot of good teams there,” Pinto said. “We’re going there to dominate. That’s our idea. Make it through no matter what. We’re very focused on Grayhawk.”
The ever-confident McMakin thinks the Razorbacks can re-discover their team groove this week.
“It’s a good region,” McMakin said. “There’s a lot of good teams. I just feel like if we play well we can play with anybody.
“That’s the mindset. Everybody’s starting over from zero. Everybody’s back to square one. We’re just focused on getting our guys to play well. We have a very, very good team.”
The rest of the teams in the regional, in order of seeding, are Purdue, New Mexico, host Clemson, Furman, Middle Tennessee State, Northern Illinois, Long Island University and Longwood.
Some of the top players in the field include North Carolina’s David Ford, the ACC player of the year, Georgia Tech’s Christo Lamprecht, Ben Carr and Ross Steelman and Purdue’s Herman Wibe Sekne.