Sept. 17, 2011
RALEIGH, N.C. - The lineage of men's golf at NC State has been handed down year after year dating back to the 1930s. Beginning a new season out west will be no different with two new faces to the starting lineup this weekend in Colorado.
Second-year James Chapman and true freshman William Herring will both make their Wolfpack debuts when the club travels to the 43rd annual Gene Miranda Falcon Invitational hosted at the United States Air Force Academy's Eisenhower Golf Club in Colorado Springs.
Buoyed by returning All-Americans Albin Choi and Mitchell Sutton and senior Graham Baillargeon, the Wolfpack appears primed for another strong season under Richard Sykes, who begins his 41st season as head coach.
Stepping out of its comfort level and time zone for a rare trip to the Rocky Mountain area, State will face a variety of challenges in its first competition since the 2011 NCAA Championship this past June in Oklahoma.
"The ball doesn't spin or move as much at that altitude so it will be a challenge to adjust immediately to the surroundings," said Sykes. "The ball can travel anywhere from 5-to-10 percent further on any given shot so the guys are going to have to make that adjustment as well."
The Wolfpack and Coastal Carolina are the only two programs from the East Coast that make up the 19-team field. Colorado State and San Diego join State as the only three programs that competed at NCAAs last year.
Sutton, one of three Canadians in the starting five along with Choi and Baillargeon, played his best golf over the final two months of last season and expects to keep that momentum rolling in his junior campaign.
"I hope to just improve on what I've been doing recently, get more wins and keep playing well," said Sutton, who earned two victories last spring, including a share of medalist honors at the NCAA Florida Regional when he shot 10-under 206.
"As a team I think we should be fine," added Sutton. "We've got some good new faces and hopefully can improve on your NCAA finish last year."
Chapman had basically his entire 2010-11 season derailed by a wrist injury that took six months to heal. The coaching staff thinks that may have helped him in qualifying last week.
"He probably had a little more determination leading into this season and that has paid off with how well he has played since he's been back," said Sykes.
That focus helped the Gastonia, N.C., native finish second in the qualifier to Sutton.
Chapman said it's as simple as just playing better golf. "I have a little more confidence than I did last year. I feel better about my swing and my putting. I just feel a lot better about my game."
Herring, like Choi last season, was selected by Sykes to make the opening trip of the year. Choi went on to be the consensus rookie of the year in the ACC and was one of the top five freshmen in the country last season.
The two new additions to the starting lineup this week really reflects the depth the Wolfpack can fall back on this season.
"We have a real good team this year," added Chapman. "We have a few guys sitting home that can definitely be playing this weekend."
A practice round is scheduled for Saturday, while the 54-hole tournament is slated to begin with two rounds on Sunday, starting at 10:15 a.m., ET in a shotgun format. The final round will begin Monday with tee times of holes 1 and 10.
Live scoring is not available this weekend so make sure to check GoPack.com for results late Sunday and Monday evening.