May 14, 2014
Sophomore Chris O'Neill will be the lone competitor representing the University of Michigan men's golf team in the NCAA postseason as he travels to Sugar Grove, Ill., to compete in the NCAA Regional this Thursday through Saturday (May 15-17) at Rich Harvest Farms. There will be 14 teams and five individuals playing in the three-day, 54-hole event. From the Sugar Grove regional, five teams and one individual from a non-advancing team will qualify for the NCAA Finals in Hutchinson, Kan. The Rich Harvest Farms course will be set up for a par or 72 and 7,151 yards.
The Regional Field
The NCAA Regional features 14 teams and five individuals. Teams (in seeding order) include: 1. California, 2. Illinois, 3. Southern California, 4. UAB, 5. UNLV, 6. Clemson, 7. Kent State, 8. Purdue, 9. Mississippi State, 10. Cal State Fullerton, 11. New Mexico State, 12. Jacksonville State, 13. Cleveland State, and 14. Saint Peter's.
The five individuals are: 1. Niall Platt, Notre Dame; 2. Chris O'Neill, Michigan; 3. Danny Pizetoski, Richmond; 4. Juan Veloza, Towson; 5. Rob van de Vin, IUPUI.
The Regional Schedule
Wednesday, May 15 -- Practice Round (tee times at 8 a.m. CDT) | O'Neill, 9:17 a.m.
Thursday, May 16 -- First Round (18), 8 a.m. CDT | O'Neill, 10:23 a.m. off No. 1
Friday, May 17 -- Second Round (18), 8 a.m. CDT | O'Neill, TBD (based upon score)
Saturday, May 18 -- Final Round (18), 7:30 a.m. CDT | O'Neill, TBD (based upon score)
Michigan at the NCAA Championships
With Chris O'Neill's participation in the Sugar Grove Regional, Michigan will have appeared in the NCAA postseason 36 total times. There have been 22 NCAA Final appearances, six NCAA team regional and 11 individual invitations, including O'Neill. U-M won back-to-back national titles in 1934 and 1935 under Tom Trueblood and four runner-up titles (1943, '45, '46 and '52). The Wolverines have had three individual champions in John Fischer (1932), Chuck Kocsis (1936) and Dave Barclay (1947) and three runner-up finishes in Kocsis (1934) and John Jenswold (1944, '45). In 2011, U-M won its first regional title at the Central Regional, paced by Lion Kim's regional individual title.
Chris O'Neill was named to the All-Big Ten second team last week, as voted by the conference's coaches. He became the 25th Wolverine all-time to be recognized with an all-conference selection, and the first since U-M's last NCAA postseason participant, Matt Thompson in 2012.
Three-Time Big Ten Player of the Week
Throughout the season, Chris O'Neill picked up three Big Ten Golfer of the Week honors. He earned one after opening the season with a second-place finish at the Wolverine Intercollegiate (Sept. 16-17) and another after earning his first career medalist honors the following weekend at the Windon Memorial Classic (Sept. 22-23). O'Neill's final weekly conference honor came after his 3-1 record helped U-M to its first-ever team win in the Big Ten Match Play event (Feb. 14-15).
A Season to Remember
Chris O'Neill led U-M in a team-high seven of 11 events, with four tournaments among the field's top 10. During his runner-up finish at the Wolverine Intercollegiate (Sept. 16-17), O'Neill's career-best final round of 66 helped him to a seven-under, 206 total, which ranks as the third-lowest 54-hole total in U-M history.
Contributing to Team Success
U-M finished top-five in four of its 10 events this season, not including its Big Ten Match Play win, and top-10 in seven of 10 events. O'Neill was the highest-finishing Wolverine at five of those seven top-10 finishes and in all four top-five finishes. The team's highest finish of the season (2nd) came at the NYX Hoosier Invitational (April 12-13), where O'Neill and freshman Reed Hrynewich led all U-M starters by tying for fifth place behind 214 totals.
Strong in Conference Play
Chris O'Neill's team-best 3-1 record at the Big Ten Match Play Championship (Feb. 14-15) helped U-M win the event for the first time in school history, as the Wolverines took the title in a playoff hole. In addition, the closing-round 71 O'Neill fired on the final day of the Big Ten Championships (May 2-4) was a new career-best for the conference postseason tournament. With his tie for 24th and classmate Brett McIntosh's tie for seventh, O'Neill helped U-M boast its first pair of top-25 finishers in the Big Ten postseason event since 2011.
New Career Marks
During his second season in Maize and Blue, Chris O'Neill set career-best marks in nearly every category. His final-round 66 at the Wolverine Intercollegiate (Sept. 16-17) is his best single-round score, while the 206 total he finished with at the event represents another career best as well as a 54-hole low by any Wolverine this season. O'Neill picked up his first career win, too -- just one week later at the Windon Memorial (Sept. 22-23).
Chris O'Neill's scoring average of 72.84 currently ranks eighth on U-M's all-time single-season scoring average list and third among sophomores, just ahead of former Wolverine Lion Kim's sophomore number of 72.89. O'Neill's career average is down to 73.37 after career-best marks in 18-hole, 36-hole and 54-hole events during his sophomore campaign.
Leaders and Best
The Wolverines were led by Chris O'Neill in several categories: rounds under par (12 of 31, 38.7 percent), rounds at or under par (17 of 31, 54.8 percent), winning percentage (73.4 percent), top-five finishes (3) and record in match play (3-1-0), in addition to leading U-M in scoring average. Since arriving in Ann Arbor, O'Neill has not missed a start, amassing 23 starts over two seasons.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Michigan Sophomore Chris O'Neill
On how he's approached this weekend and his confidence level ... "I've spent most of my time just practicing, trying to get my game in shape. I think it's in a lot better place than it was heading into Big Tens. I think I'm probably hitting it better than I have all spring. I'm definitely much more confident heading into this tournament than I have been recently. Coach Whitten kind of found something (in my swing) and it's worked recently, so hopefully it stays with me."
On the Rich Harvest Farms course, one he has never played ... "The course is a little tricky. It looks interesting, I probably won't really know until I get out there. Based on the scores I've seen on how it's usually played, I like the way it plays. Shooting under par usually means you played a pretty good round, and I've played well at tournaments that usually end up with scores just a couple strokes under par, so I think it sets up fairly well for me scoring-wise."
On the importance of focusing on his own game while playing as an individual ... "I think we'll probably peek (at the leaderboard) after every round to see where everything's at, but I won't really worry about it until those last nine holes. Instead I'll be more focused on trying to go out there and play as well as I can. If circumstances dictate how I have to play coming down the stretch, that may be, but we'll be mostly just worrying about myself for the most part."
Fri-Mon., May 23-26 -- at NCAA Finals (Hutchinson, Kan.)
Contact: Chad Shepard