Golf

Golf | NCAA Women's Division I National Championship brings future golf stars to Manatee County

EAST MANATEE -- Golf's future stars are descending on Manatee County.

Over the next two weeks, collegiate golfers will aim for a coveted NCAA national championship when the Division I men's and women's tournaments take place at The Concession Golf Club.

First up is the women's event, which begins Friday and concludes May 27. The men's tournament starts May 29 and wraps up June 3.

"It's the first time it's been done back-to-back tournaments for the men and ladies," The Concession membership director Alan Pope said. "It's never been done in any other tournament other than last year's U.S. Open. To follow that format, it's just very exciting."

The tournament will be featured on The Golf Channel with 100 hours of television coverage, including cameras on every hole, something Pope said you only see in major championships.

The USGA, PGA Tour and PGA of America are expected to have an eye on how The Concession handles the tournaments in consecutive weeks. Pope said the club's goal is to attract a major tournament.

"Our golf course is strong enough. It's one of the best courses in the country," Pope said. "The USGA, the PGA (Tour), PGA of America, they'll be looking and seeing how many people attend the event. So if you want to see a big-time event here, come out and support the NCAA Championship, because those organizations will be watching golf for two straight weeks here."

In recent years, the national championship has featured players like Masters champion Jordan Spieth, who led the University of Texas to a title. In fact, Spieth would be a senior this season if he had stayed in school.

Spectators wanting to catch the action in person can do so by purchasing tickets online or at The Concession Golf Club.

Part of the ticket package includes an NCAA Experience ticket, which costs $45 for a daily ticket, parking and access to the hospitality area for food and beverages. General admission details can be found on ncaa.com.

The six-day tournament begins with 24 teams and 12 individuals not on a qualifying team competing over 54 holes of stroke play. After the third round, the top 15 teams advance to the final day of stroke play, slated for Memorial Day. The individual champion is crowned at the conclusion of play that day, while the top eight teams qualify for the quarterfinals of match-play competition, which begins May 28. The action concludes with the championship match and a team title awarded May 29.

Defending national champion Duke, fresh off a region title, will attempt to repeat against the likes of Washington, Southern Cal and South Carolina.

"We always love this time of year," Duke head coach Dan Brooks said. "This team has been working real hard, and this is what it's all about."

The course, Pope said, is a second-shot golf course. Without high rough, the emphasis is on precise irons into the greens that typically play firm and fast.

Pope said greenskeepers will slow the greens to about 10.5 on the stimpmeter, while speeding them back up around 12.5-13 for the men's event.

"The greens are divided up into sections," Pope said. "You have to be in the correct section. Sometimes, you hit the green, that's not typically a good shot here. ... Missing a pin 15 feet here can be disaster. Most places, it's a good shot. If you miss it 15 feet here, you probably have to have one of the best short games in the world to salvage par. If you get greedy, you're going to make bogey or double bogey. Shooting at the pins is not always the right thing to do."

Pope said they anticipate 1,500 fans daily for the women's tourney, about 2,000 fans for the men's event. It's a walking event for spectators, although scooters can be rented for $25 each day.

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