BY JOHN DELL
Coach Terrance Stewart of UNC Greensboro finds it hard to believe that the Bridgestone Golf Collegiate at Grandover Resort is in its ninth year.
“Has it been that many?” he said. “Well, it’s a good that it’s lasted this long, and we feel like we have a good, competitive tournament each year.”
The Bridgestone started out being played in the spring the first two years, but a switch to the fall has been helpful as Stewart found it a little easier to get a top-notch field. This year’s field is a good one for the tournament that will be played Oct. 26-27.
The 14-team field includes Mississippi State, the defending champion. Among those in the field are 2011 champion Iowa State, High Point University, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Virginia Tech, Washington State and Purdue.
“This is just another solid field for the tournament and while it’s not as good as probably our fifth year when we had Georgia Tech playing in it, we are pleased with who is coming,” said Stewart, who is in his 13th season with the Spartans.
In last year’s tournament, Mississippi State shot a three-day total of 3-under par and beat Chattanooga by four shots. UNCG wound up placing ninth last season.
Duke, which is ranked No. 13 by Golfweek, is the highest-ranked team in the field.
The Spartans, who have never won their own tournament, have a best finish of third but Stewart is confident about his team this season.
They played in the Tar Heel Invitational earlier this fall and finished higher than Duke and North Carolina.
“On paper, I’ve got a good team and they obviously did a very good job at the North Carolina tournament,” said Stewart, who starts two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior. “I really expect us to have multiple wins this season and I’m confident in saying that.”
Junior Roy Dixon, who is from Salisbury, along with sophomores Taylor Coalson and Luke Haithcock and freshmen Carter Jenkins and Jack McGlone give Stewart one of his youngest but very talented teams.
Jenkins, who is from Raleigh, is ranked third in the Carolinas Golf Association’s rankings and Coalson, who is from Dobson and played at North Surry High School, is ranked fourth.
Even though the conference tournament, regionals and the NCAA Championships aren’t played until the spring Stewart says the fall portion of their schedule is important.
“Everything counts because what you try and do is finish as high as you can in each tournament you play in so you can be among the top 70 teams out of 300-something Division I programs,” Stewart said. “You want to be among those 70 and at the same time you have to be above .500 to get considerations for regional play. The fall is no time to mess around so it’s all important.”
In the Tar Heel Invitational the Spartans finished third and in the VCU Shootout they finished eighth out of 12 schools.
Stewart says this year’s team has a chance to be among one of his best in his 13 years. In 2004 he had the ninth-ranked team in the country at one point and in 2009 and 2010 the Spartans also had very good teams.
“I know we are pretty young but in college golf these days I’m not sure that matters,” Stewart said. “We are very talented and I’m excited about this year’s team.”
This will be the second year the Bridgestone will be held at Grandover Resort after moving from Forest Oaks Country Club, and Stewart said they roll out the red carpet for the teams that compete.
“I can’t say enough about the folks over there at Grandover,” Stewart said. “It starts with Mo Milani (an executive vice president) and Jonathan York, who is the director of golf. We are thrilled to be playing our tournament out there at Grandover.”