Brevard seeks SAC Championship on home turf

ETOWAH, N.C. – For the first time since 2009, Brevard will welcome its South Atlantic Conference rivals to Etowah Valley Golf Club and Resort for the 54-hole conference championship tournament beginning on Sunday morning.

The Tornados finished fifth in their first season in the South Atlantic Conference. Now, in the team’s penultimate season as SAC members, Brevard will look for its first-ever conference title and subsequent NCAA Tournament bid.

Brevard enters the tournament as arguably the conference’s hottest team. The Tornados have rebounded since a difficult second round at the Cliffs Intercollegiate on March 22, placing a combined five golfers on all-tournament teams in winning the Etowah Spring Challenge, held on the same course as the upcoming tournament, and finishing third at the Tennessee River Rumble in early April.

Oskar Lundgren (Jr./Umea, Sweden): Newly-minted second team all-conference selection Oskar Lundgren leads the group of Tornados competing for the title and is currently enjoying one of the most dominant seasons for a Brevard golfer in recent memory. Lundgren has finished 17 of his 20 rounds in 75 strokes or less this season and has one win, four all-tournament titles, and seven top-20 finishes on the year.

Lundgren was the individual medalist at the Division I Hummingbird Invitational, hosted by Western Carolina, with a school record-tying 66 and currently boasts the 67th-lowest stroke average in Division II. Perhaps most impressively, he has finished outside the top one-third of the field in just one of 10 tournaments this season.

Paul Calac (Jr./Valley Center, Calif.): Another player with impressive results of late is Paul Calac, currently in his second stint with the Tornados after spending last season at UNLV. His results early in the spring were mixed, but Calac broke through with a two-under 70 to tie for the win at the Etowah Spring Challenge two weeks ago on the same course as the SAC Championship, helping the Tornados to their first team tournament victory in three years.

Calac followed up that performance with a fifth-place result at the Tennessee River Rumble three days later, solidifying his place in the lineup for the conference championship. He currently ranks second on the team in stroke average and has bested over two-thirds of his competitors on the individual leaderboards this season.

Luis Vega (Jr./Madrid, Spain): Luis Vega, a 2015 all-SAC honorable mention selection, is third on the team in stroke average and will join Lundgren and Calac in the tournament lineup. Vega has the team’s second-lowest round of the season to his credit, a four-under 67 on the final day of the Richard Rendleman Invitational to vault into third place.

Craig Stephen (So./Torphins, Scotland): Craig Stephen has two top-10s and four top-20s this season and is averaging just over 77 strokes per round. He has 14 rounds of less than 80 strokes and has finished eighth or better in both tournaments held at Etowah this season.

Sebastian Strehl (Jr./Asperg, Germany): The team MVP during the 2013-14 season carded a 10th-place finish at the Etowah Spring Challenge. He had a difficult start to his season but has been extremely impressive in recent tournaments, finishing higher on the leaderboard than 74.4 percent of his competitors and ranking inside the top 16 three times in his last four tournaments.

Brevard has been bested by just two South Atlantic Conference foes at their home course over the last two seasons, falling by four strokes to Tusculum in April 2015 and five strokes to Newberry in the Etowah Intercollegiate this September.

The Tornados have shot between a two-over 290 and a 12-over 300 in each of the six rounds played at Etowah over the last two seasons, with a win and three runner-up finishes in the team standings.

This year’s Etowah Spring Challenge, an 18-hole tournament played on April 2, featured a two-stroke win by the Tornados over Tusculum. The Pioneers’ Nick Forsberg, a first team all-SAC selection, finished tied with Calac atop the leaderboard, while Golfer of the Year Brad Hawkins was three strokes off the pace in sixth.

Two other all-conference selections, second team honoree Will Bundy of Coker and honorable mention representative Tyler Stone of Wingate, played in the Spring Challenge. Bundy was buried in 15th place with a five-over 77, while Stone tied the Tornados’ Calum McAndrew for third place at a stroke under par.

Lincoln Memorial’s George Duncan, an honorable mention selection, won the Etowah Intercollegiate in September with a two-under 142 for the 36-hole tournament. Teammate Cody Johnson, named to the all-SAC second team was tied for 11th at five over, while first team selection and Freshman of the Year Sam Broadhurst finished at six over.

Carson-Newman is currently the conference’s highest-ranked team, checking in at No. 3 in the Southeast Region rankings released by the NCAA on Friday. Lincoln Memorial is ranked sixth, while Newberry enters the tournament as the region’s 10th-ranked team.

The Eagles were ranked 17th in the latest GCAA Coaches Poll, with Lincoln Memorial two slots behind in 19th. Newberry, Lenoir-Rhyne, and Tusculum each received at least one vote in the poll as well.

The winner of the 2016 SAC Men’s Golf Championship receives the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, set to begin on Monday, May 2 in Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida. Teams that are ranked in the top 12 of the final regional rankings of the season also receive a bid.

Defending SAC champion Tusculum currently finds itself outside the regional rankings despite having the league’s Golfer of the Year in Hawkins and a fellow first team all-SAC honoree in Forsberg. The Pioneers finished 17th of 20 schools in last year’s Super Regional, comprised of 20 teams from the South and Southeast Regions, while Wingate finished in 14th position.

Admission is free to all three days of competition at Etowah. Teams will compete on the West and North courses, with the West course designated as holes one through nine and the first tee on the North course signed as the 10th hole.

Golfers will tee off at 8:30 a.m. each day, with all golfers teeing off on the first hole on Sunday and Monday prior to a double tee during Tuesday’s final round. Spectators may watch golfers from the cart paths or the rough at each hole and are asked to silence ringers on cell phones.

To keep up with all the latest information about the Tornados, “Like” our Brevard College Tornado Athletics Facebook page or follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @BCTornados.

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