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On Grand Strand Golf: Coastal Carolina golf teams set for season

The goal for the Coastal Carolina men's golf team in the 2011 spring season is simple: return to the NCAA Championships for the first time in four seasons.

The Chanticleers haven't reached the 30-team finals since the 2006-07 season, when Dustin Johnson was a senior and the Chants were making their third consecutive appearance.

"Our goal is to be one of the last 30 teams to be playing in early June," CCU coach Allen Terrell said. "That's what we recruit for, that's why these kids get up early to work out in the morning, and that's why they go to study hall.

"We haven't been able to say that the last few years, but we're busting our butt to make sure we can say it this year."

The Chants begin their quest to reach the June 1-4 final in Stillwater, Okla., with their spring opener, the Gator Invitational in Gainesville, Fla., Saturday and Sunday.

Seniors Steve Delmar and Tripp McAllister, junior Drew Ernst, sophomore Sebastian Soderberg and freshman Roberto Ballesteros earned the five starting spots through about nine rounds of intrasquad qualifying that was completed Wednesday.

Delmar paced the Chants with a 73.75 scoring average in four fall events and is coming off a career-low 69 in his final round of the fall.

Ballesteros averaged 74.17 in two tournaments, Ernst 74.25 in four events, Soderberg 74.75 in four tournaments, and McAllister 75.11 in three events. Terrell expects junior Charlie Winegardner and freshman Conner Pratt to see action in the spring as well.

"Drew won qualifying by a lot of shots, and I think he'll be there for us as our No. 1 guy," Terrell said. "I'm not sure this is our lineup, I've got seven solid players."

Coastal played four fall tournaments, finishing fourth, seventh, eighth and 13th out of 14 teams at the Bank of Tennessee Ridges Invitational in their final fall event in October.

"In the fall there were some signs of qualities you want to have on your team, then we would kind of take a step back," Terrell said. "A lot of that is the consistency, finding the one guy who shoots that consistently low score.

"I know if we can stay healthy and keep doing what these guys have been doing for really the past 30 days, we're going to be pretty good."

The Chants have seven spring tournaments, including the General Hackler Championship from March 13-14 at the TPC of Myrtle Beach and the Big South Championship at The Patriot Golf Club in Greenwood from April 18-20. One of six regionals and the NCAA Championships follow if the Chants make the postseason.

Though Ernst has won a state amateur title and many of his teammates have won junior and amateur championships, the Chants don't have a player on its nine-man roster who has won a college tournament.

"I believe this team can do whatever they want by the end of the year," Terrell said. "We've got the talent. A lot of the talent is in the freshman class and their transition to college has been a little bit slower than we'd like.

"I think they're ready to focus on what they came here for, to go to school and play golf and help us get to the national championship. I do believe these guys can do it. I do feel they're buying into what it takes to be a championship-caliber player."

CCU women teeing off

The Coastal Carolina women's golf team showed what it was capable of in the fall with a win, runner-up finish and a lead after the first two rounds of the Challenge at Onion Creek in Austin, Texas, in its last tournament in early November.

But the Chants also showed inconsistency with finishes of 12th and 15th, and they ended up finishing seventh in Austin.

The high finishes are a testament to the Chants' talent and potential, but the inconsistency is likely a product of their youth. Six of the nine players on the roster are freshmen or sophomores.

The upperclassmen are seniors Alicia Greer and Carmen Jones, and junior Kaitlin Higginbotham, who is in her first year at CCU after transferring from Redlands Community College.

"We're really young so every time we play in a tournament I think we're going to get better," said CCU women's golf coach Katie Quinney, who was hired in January 2009. "Right now we're relying heavily on our underclassmen."

The CCU women begin their six-tournament spring season Sunday through Tuesday at the University of Central Florida Challenge in Sorrento, Fla. Eight rounds of intrasquad qualifying at the TPC, Grande Dunes, Myrtle Beach National and Wild Wing Plantation to determine the starting lineup for the spring opener has been delayed by poor weather. Quinney said the qualifying will determine four of the five spots and she'll pick the fifth.

The Chants have eight eligible players since sophomore Eugenia Guerra of Monterrey, Mexico, a sophomore who transferred from Nevada, has to sit this season out.

Freshman Courtney Boe of Bluffton won the individual title in her college debut in the season-opening, one-day, 27-hole Jacksonville Labor Day Shootout at the TPC at Sawgrass' Players Stadium Course with a 3-over-par 111. She also finished second in the Palmetto Intercollegiate at Oak Point Golf Club at Kiawah Island with a 2-under 214.

Sophomore Jessica Alexander had four top-16 finishes, including a tie for fourth, in the Chants' five fall events and recently shot a 69 in a qualifying round.

Sophomores Brittany Henderson and Taylor Slagle will also be counted on this spring, while freshman Mariel Curran of Saint James, N.Y., did not see action in the fall and could be redshirted if she doesn't play her way into the lineup early in the spring.

After adding several new tournaments to the schedule in the fall, the Chants will revisit several sites in the spring. "All the courses were new in the fall," Quinney said. "In the spring we've been to all but one [site] at least one time, minus the freshmen, so the spring will be a lot more familiar to them."

The Chants can gain an automatic berth into a regional with a win in the Big South Conference Championship, though it will have to knock off defending champ Charleston Southern and contender Bucknell. The Chants were selected for a regional despite not winning the Big South last year. "We're trying hard to make it to a national championship and see what can happen," Quinney said.

Heritage tickets available

Tickets for the PGA Tour's 43rd annual Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island from April 21-24 are on sale, and daily tickets are available for the first time in more than a decade.

Thursday and Sunday tickets are $50 each, while Friday and Saturday tickets are $60. In addition, a weeklong grounds badge is $150, a clubhouse badge offering access to the clubhouse and two on-course hospitality venues is $190, an Arnold Palmer Pass including food and beverages at hospitality tents is $375, and tickets to all three days of practice rounds and pro-ams are $35 each.

The event, which has traditionally been held the week after the Masters, is now two weeks after the season's first major. Call tournament headquarters at 843-671-2448 or visit theheritagegolfsc.com to purchase tickets or for more information.

Wells Fargo tickets on sale

Tickets for the ninth annual $6.5 million Wells Fargo Championship from May 5-8 at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C., are on sale, with prices remaining the same as the previous three years.

A weekly book is $140, a practice pack of tickets for Monday's Pro-Am, Tuesday's practice round and Wednesday's Pro-Am are $25, Thursday and Friday daily tickets are $40 each, and Saturday and Sunday daily tickets are $50 each. Children under 13 get in free with a paying adult.

Patrons can purchase tickets and research hospitality and premium ticket options by visiting WellsFargoChampionship.com or by calling 1-800-945-0777.

Past champions at Quail Hollow include defending champion Rory McIlroy, David Toms, Joey Sindelar, Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk, Tiger Woods, Anthony Kim and Sean O'Hair.

To view Blondin's blog, Green Reading, or Q&A Forum, Ask Al, go to TheSunNews.com.

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