It took a while, but the Binghamton University golf team will finally get its chance at an NCAA Championship berth.
For the first time in its history, the 12-team America Sky Conference — founded for the 2007-08 season — will hold a championship tournament for its members, with an automatic qualifier into the NCAA Championship at stake.
“It’s very important for any Division I athlete, when you’re a player at a Division I school, to have an opportunity to play in the NCAAs,” BU head coach Bernie Herceg said. “And now we have it.”
The University of Hartford is set to host the competition from April 29 to May 1 at the Lake of Isles in North Stonington, Conn. The winner will punch his ticket to one of six NCAA regional sites.
“It’s been a long time coming with the America Sky Conference coming together and getting the automatic qualifier,” Herceg said. “So it’s just a great year for the conference and a great opportunity for the team.”
Binghamton will send seniors Trevor Fiedler and Mike Surdey, junior David Cellura and sophomores Bryce Edmister and Paul Andrews to the tournament.
“At the beginning of the season, we have one goal, and that’s to win conferences,” Fiedler said. “Hopefully everything goes according to plan and we start playing our best and bring home the title.”
But in order to accomplish that goal, the Bearcats will have to turn in a strong team-wide performance. Of the five 54-hole scores registered on the 6,928-yard, par-72 course, the top four will count toward the team’s overall score.
“If you have two of your guys struggle in one round, it kills your score, and if three struggle, you get taken out of the tournament,” Fiedler said. “Golf is such a timing sport and if you don’t come together at the right time you’re going to struggle.”
At four events this spring, Binghamton as a team has placed no higher than fifth, despite some brilliant performances. BU did face some of the nation’s best collegiate golfers — the team traveled to both the University of Missouri and North Carolina State University for tournaments — but without four solid rounds, individual scores don’t matter.
“In the spring this year, we haven’t had the consistency we had in the fall,” Herceg said. “If you don’t get that fourth man score to be a consistent, decent score, then you can’t compete at the level you want to compete at.”
Though the team’s spring schedule was trying, Herceg said he laid it out with the inaugural America Sky Conference Championship in mind. The plan was to prepare his golfers for tough course layouts against top-notch competition and, according to Fiedler, the method has proven successful.
“The events we’ve played have been great leading up to this course,” he said. “Traveling to Missouri and N.C. State were tough courses, arguably the toughest we’ve played this year, but they’re similar to what we’ll be playing this weekend. It’s good we’ve played in those events and should help us out and we’ll be able to immediately feel comfortable.”
The three-day event is set to open Sunday afternoon, with live stats available at www.GolfStat.com. The winner will have two weeks to prepare for NCAA Regionals from May 17-19, but a confident Herceg is taking it just one event at a time.
“We’re one of the top teams in the conference,” he said. “I really like our chances.”