April 21, 2013
McKINNEY - Lamar University will look to defend its Southland Conference title in men's golf this week at Stonebridge Ranch Country Club, but while the venue is the same as last year, the Cardinals' lineup will be nearly entirely different.
Only one player remains from last year's team which won in a playoff over Central Arkansas to capture the Cardinals' Southland Conference record 24th tournament championship. Former league member UT Arlington is next closest in Southland Conference titles won with four.
The 50th annual tournament will begin Monday morning and run through Wednesday on the par-72, 7,346-yard Pete Dye Signature Course. Eight Southland teams will be competing in the 54-hole tournament which begins with an 8 a.m. tee time Monday morning.
"It's a very difficult golf course," said LU head coach Brian White. "It has hosted NCAA Regional championships. It's a very good, very difficult course and that's an advantage for my team because we're very good ball strikers. I think it'll be a good test."
Lamar had three seniors on last year's team which advanced to the NCAA Championships, including two-time individual conference champion M.J. Daffue. A member of the Division I PING All-Central Region Team last season, Daffue became the first player to successfully defend his conference title since McNeese State's Tim Graham won three straight from 1977-79.
Current senior Erik Knudsen is the only Cardinal to have played in the Southland Conference Tournament. Knudsen tied for 29th at last year's tournament from Stonebridge Ranch and is currently averaging 74.6 strokes per round this year. His top finish this year was a tie for sixth at the Bayou City Collegiate Championship from Redstone Country Club in Humble.
"We have a whole new lineup which I would say is a disadvantage because they haven't played the course under tournament conditions," said White. "You still have to go play well to win a conference tournament. We need someone to come out of the lineup to do something great.
"Generally when you win championships, it's usually someone from the bottom part of your lineup who steps up and plays better than they usually do, unless you just have the best team."
The four newcomers to the conference tournament who will be competing for Lamar are senior Marc Dobias, junior Stephane Dubois, sophomore Gustaf Burenstam and freshman Greg Wiggins. Dubois and Burenstam were on the team last year, but neither played in the conference tournament.
A transfer from Wisconsin, Dubois leads the Cardinals with a 74.2 scoring average over 10 events. Dubois has posted three straight top 20 finishes heading into this week's action and has improved his scoring average to 73.1 during five spring events.
Dobias has also played well lately, tying for eighth at the General Hackler Championship last month and posting two other top 25 performances. The VCU transfer is averaging 74.9 strokes per round but has shaved nearly a stroke off that total during the spring season.
Wiggins, who will be playing in just his eighth event at the college level, is averaging 75.1 strokes per round for the year. A native of Germany, Wiggins is coming off a tie for 26th place against an extremely talented field at Stanford's U.S. Intercollegiate which included an opening round 69.
Burenstam has played in eight of Lamar's 10 tournaments on the year and is sporting a 76.0 scoring average. His last outing was a tie for 18th at the Border Olympics from Laredo Country Club and he has posted four straight rounds of 75 or better.
Lamar, which has won eight of the last 12 Southland Conference golf titles, will be playing its first competitive round since the U.S. Intercollegiate wrapped up on Mar. 30. This will be the Cardinals' sixth tournament of the spring semester.
Not only is Lamar looking to continue its dominance in Southland Conference play, but the Cardinals are trying to guarantee their 12th trip to regional tournament in the last 13 years. Last year, Lamar finished fourth at the Greensboro Regional to advance to the NCAA Championship in Pacific Palisades, Calif.
The Cardinals enter this year's conference tournament as the second highest rated team in the latest Golfweek College rankings at 89th in the country. Southeastern Louisiana, which has won three conference titles, is ranked 83rd and Central Arkansas is 90th. Stephen F. Austin (109), Sam Houston State (113), newcomer Oral Roberts (162), McNeese State (233) and Nicholls (245) will also be competing.