Golf uses technology to prepare for NCAA Tournament

Sophomore Kristian Tannum Donaldson was the third-highest finisher for the Rams in the A-10 Championship, carding a 1-under round. Photo courtesy VCU Athletics

Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor

Each golf course around the country is different — some are longer than others or have more hills — but all pose a challenge for players preparing for the NCAA Golf tournament.

After a few days of waiting following their fourth Atlantic 10 title April 28 and an automatic NCAA bid, the Rams learned they were selected to play in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in the NCAA Regional.

The No. 13 Rams have not played at TPC Myrtle Beach, so they are using technology to prepare.

“It’s a lot easier now than it used to be with the internet, there’s so much out there,” coach Matt Ball said. “You can go on Google Earth, you can see every hole, you can get elevation changes and all kinds of stuff.”

VCU will also have a five-hour practice session at TPC Myrtle Beach prior to the first round. Ball said there are two main things to look for on Google Earth and during the practice round: where to hit tee shots and where to hit the approach shots.

“Then on approach shots, when you can be aggressive and when you can’t,” Ball said, “and what areas you need to miss so you can save par when you have errant shots.”

Preparing for the new course can also be very difficult because teams have to learn how to attack the greens — but they don’t know what those will be.

“We’ve got to learn what the spots are to pick,” Ball said. “So that’s the hardest part of trying to figure out in such a short period of time, how to attack flags and such.”

Before the creation of Google Earth, most teams only had the practice round to prepare for the tournaments. The teams used their 15 minutes on each hole to figure out a way to attack it for the competitive rounds, Ball said.

The practice round is still a crucial part of the preparation, and Ball said the players all give input on how to approach each hole.

“It’s not just one head trying to figure it out,” Ball said. “They’re all a part of it, and I want them to be a part of it because they have to buy into and agree to it.”

Between rounds, Ball said the players and coaching staff have to be flexible if something doesn’t work.

The Rams have previously played in the NCAA Regionals at Briggs Ranch golf course in San Antonio, Texas, in 2014; the Olympic Course at Gold Mountain in Bremerton, Washington, in 2015; and at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Oklahoma, in 2016.

Golf will play in the NCAA Regional at Myrtle Beach May 13-15.

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