Originally created 05/14/98

ASU riding high into regional tournament



Five tournament titles this year. Ten consecutive top-six finishes. A No. 14 national ranking.

Augusta State golf coach Jim Kelson can forget about all that now.

The real season starts today for the Augusta State golf team, having one of its greatest seasons in school history, with the first round of the NCAA East Regional at The Melrose Club on Daufuskie Island, S.C. The three-day, 54-hole tournament concludes Saturday.

"It's been a great season, but we realize it comes down to one tournament," said Augusta State golf coach Jim Kelson, whose Jaguars return to the regionals for the fourth time since 1992 and the first since 1995. "We have to start from scratch. Wins are fine, but the true measuring stick is how you do in the postseason."

The top 11 of 23 teams advance to the NCAA Championships at Albuquerque, N.M., May 28-31.

Fourteen of the nation's top 27 teams are in the field, including No. 2 Clemson, No. 3 Georgia Tech, No. 5 Georgia, No. 9 South Carolina and No. 10 North Carolina. Top individuals include former Richmond Academy golfer and current Clemson golfer John Engler (No. 40 nationally), defending NCAA medalist Charles Warren of Clemson (No. 17), Georgia Tech's Bryce Molder (No. 2) and Matt Kuchar (No. 4), Georgia's Jeremy Parrott (No. 18) and North Carolina's Max Harris (No. 6).

Vaughn Taylor, who competed as a team member in 1995 and as an individual in 1996, is the only Jaguar with postseason experience. Taylor, from Augusta, is the only senior on a team that includes one junior, Jeff Keck (Evans), two sophomores, Chris Roake (England) and John Wells (England), and one freshman, Robert Duck (England). But Taylor dispels the notion of inexperience.

"All the foreigners have the best attitudes," Taylor said. "They know how to prepare mentally for a tournament. The regionals won't be different than any other tournament."

The Jaguars have finished in first or second in eight of 10 tournaments this year. Augusta State currently rides a two-tournament winning streak into postseason, with titles at its own Cleveland Golf Invitational on April 5 and the Wofford Invitational on April 25.

"These kids have played in so many big tournaments. They've proven they've got game. Their intent is to win this tournament. We know it's going to be tough," Kelson said.

And as tough as it will be, Augusta State has beaten top-ranked teams before. The Jaguars defeated Georgia Tech by two strokes in the Iron Duke Classic in October and defeated Florida, Georgia and South Carolina in the Gator Invitational in February.

"This is just another step," Kelson said. "You either make it to the finals or you don't make it."