Men’s golf looks to win first ACC Championship in program history
Virginia heads to ACC Tournament this weekend
The Virginia men’s golf program has had many excellent teams throughout its history.
The program’s history includes teams led by All-American selected players, like the 1999-2000 Virginia team led by James Driscoll. It includes teams who have won multiple regular season tournaments, like the 2010-11 Virginia team that won three. It even includes teams who have competed in the NCAA Championships, like last year’s Virginia team.
However, the Cavaliers believe they have the talent this year to achieve something that no previous Virginia men’s golf team has ever been able to do — win the ACC Championship. The team will compete for the conference title Friday to Sunday at the Musgrove Mill Golf Club in Clinton, S.C.
“I think the work ethic as a collective unit sets this team apart from the past teams I have been on,” senior co-captain Derek Bard said. “Everyone shows up hungry to practice to get better, and it’s shown in our play on the course. We want to win the thing.”
Virginia’s impressive regular season has established the team as a serious contender. With four tournament victories this year, the Cavaliers are currently ranked No. 17 in the country by golfstat.com. They will enter the ACC Championship as the No. 3 team in the conference.
“This is my favorite team I’ve been on in my four years here,” Bard said. “Everyone is working toward the same end goal, which is to tear it up in the postseason.”
Much of Virginia’s success this season can be attributed to the outstanding play by Bard and senior co-captain Jimmy Stanger. The two lead the team in best stroke average per round, with Stanger leading the team at 70.38 strokes per round and Bard in second at 70.83 strokes per round.
Both Bard and Stanger are individually ranked in the top 40 nationally and were named to last year’s All-ACC team.
Coach Bowen Sargent offered some high praise for his team’s leading duo.
“We’ve had some strong classes, but … Derek and Jimmy are very good,” Sargent said. “If they both go on to be All-Americans, they will be the best class I’ve had at [the University].”
Strong play from Bard and Stanger will be critical to the Cavaliers’ success this weekend.
While Virginia enters the ACC Championship with one of its strongest teams in recent memory, the competition will be as tough as ever. Eight of the 12 competing ACC teams are ranked nationally in the top 50.
The top competitors include Clemson, who is ranked No. 15 and is the defending ACC champion, as well as Wake Forest, who is ranked No. 9 and ended the regular season finishing in the top three in its last five tournaments.
This will also mark the first time that Virginia will play at the Musgrove Mill Golf Club. The ACC Championship was previously hosted in New London, N.C. for the past 15 years. However, the conference elected to move the tournament site in response to the controversial North Carolina House Bill 2.
Sargent said he is confident in Virginia’s ability to play well on the unfamiliar course.
“I’ve never seen Musgrove, as this is the first year we’ve played at this venue,” Sargent said. “From speaking with people and drawing up a yardage book, it appears it's tight off the tee and has very undulating greens. It should suit our team well. We have a team that drives it well and hits short irons well.”
With a chance to make school history, the Cavaliers will be as motivated as ever in what should be a highly competitive tournament, Bard said.
“I think we’re all ready to get going,” Bard said.
Virginia is scheduled to tee off Friday at 10 a.m. The ACC Championship will be covered live on www.theacc.com.