The CCU men’s golf team is hosting the NCAA Myrtle Beach Regional. Will it be playing?

Coastal Carolina junior Luis Ruiz played in the NCAA Kissimmee Regional from Monday through Wednesday.
Coastal Carolina junior Luis Ruiz played in the NCAA Kissimmee Regional from Monday through Wednesday. submitted photo

Coastal Carolina is hosting the NCAA Myrtle Beach Regional at TPC Myrtle Beach from May 13-15, but it may not be participating.

The CCU men’s golf team failed to defend its 2018 Sun Belt Conference Tournament championship on Wednesday, falling in the match play semifinals against Arkansas State 3-2 at Raven Golf Club in Sandestin, Florida. The match was decided in extra holes.

With current national rankings of 67th by Golfstat and 65th by Golfweek, the Chanticleers are on the bubble at best for an at-large NCAA regional berth. They have an overall record of 78-59-4 but are just 38-58-2 against teams ranked in the top 100 and 9-36 against top 50 teams, according to Golfweek.

The NCAA men’s golf selection committee generally selects according to Golfstat rankings, Coastal coach Jim Garren said, and the cutoff line to the postseason is often in the low 60s.

The Chants could move up in the rankings depending on how teams they have defeated this season fare in their conference championships, and Garren is hoping the Chants will be selected for the regional based on a strong finish to the season. “I’m holding out hope the computer is going to flip,” Garren said. “You’ve just got to keep your fingers crossed and hope the computers turn out in your favor.”

Arkansas State is the top-ranked team in the Sun Belt at No. 32 in both rankings and defeated Louisiana-Monroe 4-1 in the championship match Wednesday afternoon to earn an automatic NCAA berth. Arkansas State would have been selected for a regional, and may earn the only berth from the Sun Belt. At No. 60 in Golfstat, Georgia Southern also has a chance.

ULM upset Georgia Southern, the stroke play winner, 3-2 in a semifinal match that also came down to a playoff in the deciding individual match.

Coastal’s match against the Red Wolves came down to a playoff between CCU’s Luis Ruiz and freshman Luka Naglic of Slovenia after the teams split four matches and Ruiz and Naglic were all square after 18 holes. The CCU senior from Mexico City missed a par putt of about 5 feet on the first extra hole to drop the match.

“It’s hard to see a senior have that opportunity and not seize the moment, because being a senior that’s been here for four years . . . I’m sure he felt the pressure,” Garren said. “He’s upset and you hate it for him. You hope his career doesn’t end. We hope we get another go in the regional but I don’t know. We’re on the bubble.

“Hopefully that’s not the last one, but that’s going to be a hard way to go out if it is.”

In CCU’s other matches, Coastal senior Wes Artac of Texas won 2 and 1 over Julien Sale and junior States Fort of Georgia won 1 up over Joel Wendin. CCU senior Morgan Deneen of California and junior Zack Taylor of Pennsylvania each lost 4 and 2 to Matthew Cole and Zan Luka Stirn, respectively.

Wednesday’s match play semifinal and final matches followed 54 holes of stroke play that determined the tournament’s individual champion and the four match play teams and their seedings. Steven Fisk of Georgia Southern beat Naglic in a playoff after they were tied at 11-under 202 to earn Sun Belt medalist honors for the second time in his career and his ninth career win.

The Chants finished second in stroke play following a program-record 18-hole score of 17-under 267 for a 27-under 825 total, which also set a school record.

Both Deneen and Taylor posted 7-under 64s in the final round to finish in the top 10 individually and match the third-best rounds in CCU history, behind only 63s shot by Deneen last year and Zack Byrd in 2008-09.

Taylor birdied his first five holes Tuesday and tied for third at 10-under 203, which ties for the third-lowest 54-hole final score in program history, and Deneen tied for seventh at 206.

Artac and Fort tied for 15th at 3-under 210, and Ruiz tied for 27th at 1-over 214.

Coastal also set a school record this week for the best 36 holes in a 54-hole tournament at 10-under 558, yet the Chants’ season may have come to an end.

“Unfortunately we just lost it on the 19th hole in that one match. . . . That’s part of it. It’s frustrating that it came down to that,” Garren said. “It was a tough day for us. We weren’t good today.”

The 81 teams and 45 additional individuals chosen for the six regionals will be announced at 9 p.m. on May 1 on Golf Channel. Taylor is expected to be among the individuals selected. Thirty teams and six individuals will advance from regionals to the national championship.

The Chants are hurt in the rankings by the odd circumstance of having lost to a pair of teams who were disqualified from other tournaments this season and were forced to finish last and have their ranking diminished, which in turn hurts Coastal’s ranking.

An SMU player signed an incorrect scorecard when the team only had four players and the Mustangs finished 27th in a large Stanford tournament rather than 19th, and Iowa finished last in an 11-team tournament when it endured losses of players to a DQ and injury in the second round. The Hawkeyes were second following the opening round.

“This whole spring and even in the fall it has been noticeable the teams that didn’t play them as opposed to the team that did, we’ve definitely felt that effect,” Garren said. “It’s without a doubt anywhere from a three to four to 12 to 13 differential in the rankings with all these computer numbers and we’re sitting about two outside the magic number right now and I know that’s part of the reason why.

“So I can only hope the committee takes a look at that and they pay attention, because if they pay attention they’re going to see what a pretty nice year we’ve had and especially a really nice spring these last four events.”

In the past four tournaments the Chants won a 21-team event at Furman and finished eighth and fourth before finishing second in the stroke play portion of the 12-team Sun Belt tournament.

The Chants will be pulling for Auburn and Alabama in the SEC Championship and Northwestern in the Big 10 Championship because they have beaten those teams.

“We have to hope some of these teams we beat this last month or so go out and do good things in their conference championship,” Garren said.

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Alan Blondin covers golf, Coastal Carolina athletics and numerous other sports-related topics that warrant coverage. Well-versed in all things Myrtle Beach, Horry County and the Grand Strand, the Northeastern University journalism school valedictorian has been a sports reporter at The Sun News since 1993, earning eight top-10 Associated Press Sports Editors national writing awards and 18 top-three S.C. Press Association writing awards since 2007.