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Trojans, Red Wolves set for regional run

by Eli Lederman | May 6, 2021 at 2:06 a.m.

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock men's golf team waited nearly 20 years to return to the NCAA Championships before Wednesday, and then the Trojans waited just a little bit longer to learn that it had secured its third regional appearance in program history.

"We were the very last group announced," Coach Jake Harrington said. "You start to wonder if they're leaving us out of this thing. It was intense to wait to see our name called, but it finally popped up. It's a great day to be a Trojan."

UALR and Arkansas State University joined the University of Arkansas in the NCAA field with the regionals set to be played May 17-19.

The Trojans enter the postseason as the No. 9 seed in the Stillwater (Okla.) Regional , where they'll be in a field that includes Oklahoma State, Alabama and Baylor at Karsten Creek Golf Club. The Red Wolves earned their sixth all-time regional appearance and the No. 10 seed in the Noblesville (Ind.) Regional hosted by Ball State, and will compete against Texas, North Carolina, Tennessee and Louisville, among others.

UALR's place in the regional marks its first since the Trojans won back-to-back Sun Belt titles in 2000 and 2001, with the most recent also coming in Stillwater. The program's best postseason finish came in Victoria, Texas, in 2000, when the Trojans tied for 18th.

Wednesday's selection is also UALR's first under Harrington, who took over the program in 2013. The Trojans earned six tournament victories under his leadership, and UALR's No. 55 ranking in the GolfStat national rankings entering the postseason is the highest in program history.

"It shows a lot about where we're at," Harrington said. "It proves that we're on the rise and we're doing the right things here in Little Rock. It shows how strong this program is."

The Red Wolves' selection is their second since 2018-19, when ASU won its first Sun Belt Conference championship and reached a regional for the first time since 2002. Mike Hagen's Red Wolves will travel to the Noblesville Regional ranked No. 59 in the GolfStat rankings.

Hagen -- the 2016 Sun Belt Coach of the Year -- has led ASU to 17 tournament wins since his 2015 arrival, including a program-record six victories in 2016. The 2019 conference tournament title win at Florida's Raven Golf Club stands as the crown jewel of the turnaround under Hagen, but he said Wednesday that reaching the postseason without an automatic bid marked another step of progress for the program.

"I think it shows that we can compete against anybody in the country," Hagen said. "I've never wanted to have to rely on a conference championship [in order to make it]."

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