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College golf: SEC teams head to Sea Island Golf Club for championships

Beautiful weather, picturesque scenery, plenty of golfers working on their game — a walk around Sea Island Golf Club’s Seaside Course on Thursday wouldn’t look that much different than it does the rest of the year. The only exception was the SEC and team logos dotting the course, driving range and putting green.

The SEC men’s golf teams make their annual trip to the Golden Isles this week for the SEC Men’s Golf Championship at Seaside. Even before the RSM Classic came to fruition, the SEC was making trips to the Isles to decide a conference champion.

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The league has held its men’s golf championship in the Isles since 2001. The majority of that time has been spent at Seaside with 14 tournaments being held at the prestigious course. The tournament shifted to Frederica Golf Club in 2008 and 2009.

“It’s a great venue. It’s probably one of the best venue’s we play all year,” said Auburn head coach Nick Clinard of Seaside. “It’s a special place. It’s the best manicured grass we’ll see all year. It’s an exciting time anytime you get to compete against the best. The players are ready to compete.”

This year, though, there is a new wrinkle to the tournament. Teams will compete in three rounds of stroke play on Friday and Saturday, playing 36 holes on Friday and 18 on Saturday. The tournament will then be cut to eight teams and go to a match play format with the quarterfinals and semifinals on Sunday and the finals on Monday.

“If you can get into match play it’s going to be fun,” Clinard said. “It could be a short week, or it could be a long week. Typically in college, we do a lot of 36-18 events because we miss less school that way, but the match play brings a different element. It’s a different game, kind of [mano-a-mano scenario]. I think all the players, at least my players, love it. The coaches love it too.”

The format is the same as the one the NCAA uses to determine a champion, so getting a chance to experience the format at the conference championship could be beneficial down the line.

Clinard said the head-to-head format could also bring in more casual fans to the course.

“I think the outside fans who don’t really know a lot about college golf, they understand wins and losses — whether it be tennis or soccer, football or basketball,” Clinard said. “When you play head-to-head, they understand that. They don’t really understand that you play five guys and you drop the highest score.”

The SEC traditionally has some of the best teams in golf, and this year is no exception.

The conference has eight teams in the top 25 of Golfstat Relative Rankings. Vanderbilt is the highest ranked team at third, with No. 6 Florida and No. 7 LSU also in the top 10. Texas A&M and Auburn are at 16 and 19, respectively, while Ole Miss, Missouri and…

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