PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. - The season isn't over yet for Jacksonville University's men's golf team. The Dolphins are headed to the NCAA Regional competition in Baton Rouge, La., on May 15-17. This is just the second regional appearance by the entire team in program history, and the first since Russell Knox and Duncan Stewart won the ASUN Individual and Team Championships in 2005-06.
"When I started nine years ago this is what I hoped we could build," said Head Coach Mike Blackburn. "With the help of a lot of good people, our boosters, and our relationship with TPC Sawgrass, we've gradually been able to get better and attract better recruits. I feel like we deserve to be a part of the NCAA landscape now."
The team finished the regular season ranked 41st overall in the GolfStat rankings, good enough to qualify for a regional appearance. The Dolphins averaged 285.71 per round, the lowest team average in program history, and led all men's programs at JU in cumulative GPA.
David Wicks finished his senior year a stroke average of 70.61, a program record. His average is 1.13 strokes per round better than Knox in his senior year. He defended his individual title at the GolfWeek Program Challenge, the fourth individual title of his career. The Bexhill, England, native was named the ASUN Co-Player of the Year and finished ranked 19th individually in the nation. Wicks was also named to the Arnold Palmer Cup, an exclusive event that only seven American and seven European collegiate golfers qualify for each year.
Raul Pereda also had an incredible year, completing his junior year with a scoring average of 71.64, .10 strokes better than Knox's senior year. The Cordoba, Mexico, native had a 66 in the Gator Invitational, good enough for a second place finish. He was a member of the Second Team All-ASUN.
Ryan Jahn was also named to the All-ASUN Second Team and was the lone Dolphin named to the ASUN All-Academic team this year. He rounded out his senior season with the best per-round average of his career, 72.14. He won the individual title at the Bridgestone Invitational.
Sam Uhland averaged 73.61 through 28 rounds while maintaining his fourth consecutive semester of a 4.0 GPA, and Elliott Fullalove averaged 73.75 and had Top 10 finishes at the Bridgestone and Quail Valley tournaments.
The Dolphins will be the seventh seed of 14 teams competing at the Baton Rouge Regional, hosted by top-seeded LSU at the University Club in Baton Rouge, La. Of those 14 teams, seven won their conference championships and eight are ranked in the Top 50 of GolfStat's Division 1 Collegiate Golf rankings. LSU is #6, followed by #7 Oregon (PAC 12 Champ), #18 Virginia, #19 Duke (ACC Champ), #29 Northwestern, #31 Arkansas, #42 JU, and #43 Kentucky.
"We get along really well and support each other through everything," said Pereda. "We don't care about bad rounds, and each of us tries to become a better player every time we tee off. We worked hard, and this is a special crew. I'm so glad I get to share this experience with them."
The five lowest-scoring teams and the lowest scoring individual not on those five teams will advance from the three-day, 54-hole Baton Rouge regional to the NCAA Championship, held at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill., from May 26-31.