May 14, 2014 8:31:06 PM
STARKVILLE --Clay Homan goes into today's NCAA Regionals with the maturity of four seniors.
This Mississippi State quartet of talent and experience give Homan the confidence that his team can perform a minor upset and be one of the eight teams to qualify for the NCAA Championship, slated for May 23-28 at the Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kansas.
"I feel like we may play our best golf because these seniors get to kind of fly under the radar," Homan said. "When you have seniors that you can rely on, you have to know your team has a chance to advance and do special things."
Chad Ramey, Joe Sakulpolphaisan, Barrett Edens and Axel Boasson all experienced this level of pressure last season when MSU finished 10th at the Baton Rouge Regional but, after two late wins to the spring season, are expecting to play much more consistently this week in Illinois.
"There's four us and you have to know we are going to give it our all in this opportunity because of what is at stake," Ramey said. "The sense of urgency is certainly there even though the season has kind of flown by. This is going to be a young team next year but this program is going in the right direction because of what these seniors accomplished."
Ramey will lead the team after posting a Top 25 scoring average of 71.00 in the 2014 season. It was nearly a stroke improvement on the 71.88 average from last season, which ranked second all-time in MSU history. The Fulton native will be looking to continue his college career in a midwest region where hitting bent grass fairways and greens will be critical.
According to Golfstat.com, MSU doesn't rank in the Top 50 teams nationally this season in fairways and greens hit in regulation and will have to improve on that stat to compete in what is considered a wide open NCAA Regional in Illinois.
"I know we haven't really played much up north and it'll be a little different but it will work out for us," Ramey said. "We know we can finish Top 5 and even win the whole thing. We know we're talented enough to do that."
Mississippi State, coming off a ninth place finish in the Southeastern Conference Championship last week, was given the ninth seed in the Sugar Grove, Illinois, Regional that will be played at Rich Harvest Farms around an hour west of Chicago. The top five teams from each regional will advance to the NCAA Championship and while that means it would be considered an upset for MSU to make it past the regional round, the Bulldogs were thrilled with their draw. MSU didn't draw a conference tournament champion among any of the Top 6 seeds in the regional (California, Illinois, Southern California, Alabama-Birmingham, UNLV and Clemson) and will compete at a site where second-seeded Illinois is the closest school in the regional. However, the Fighting Illini, who had their five straight Big Ten Conference championship streak broken last week by Minnesota, will bus the 123 miles from its campus in Champaign, Illinois.
California, Clemson, Jacksonville State, Kent State, New Mexico State, Purdue, UAB and UNLV have all teed up against MSU this season, with Cal State Fullerton, Cleveland State, Illinois, Saint Peter's and Southern California rounding out the field.
Homan's squad was scheduled to tee off alongside Kent State and Purdue at 8:55 a.m. today to open the first round.
Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.