Tournament Notebook: Stanford Classic at Cypress Point
Matt Alessi

Oct. 29, 2012

News and notes from Pebble Beach, Calif., where the University of Michigan men's golf team will be competing in the Stanford Classic at Cypress Point, a two-day tournament (Monday-Tuesday, Oct. 29-30) featuring an elite eight-team field at a world-renowned venue.

Practice Round Memorable for Alessi
The team hit balls at Monterey Peninsula Country Club Sunday morning (Oct. 28) and made a stop at Pebble Beach Golf Links to look around before heading to Cypress Point for the afternoon practice round. The Wolverines started on hole No. 17 and finished on the world-famous 16th hole, a lengthy par-3 over the Pacific Ocean. During the practice round, Matt Alessi notched his first career hole-in-one, acing the 175-yard seventh hole with a 6-iron. It was part of a birdie-eagle-birdie stretch for the senior.

First-Day Match-Ups
Michigan is seeded eighth in the Stanford Classic at Cypress Point and will face No. 1 seed Texas, which is ranked No. 2 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings. A combination of the Golfweek and Golfstat rankings were used to seed the teams. The Wolverines and Longhorns have the first three starting times off the No. 1 tee on Monday (Oct. 29), and the first round will be four ball (better ball) format. The pairings:

8:00 a.m. -- Miguel Echavarria/Andrew Yeager (U-M) vs. Julio Vegas/Kramer Hickok (Texas)
8:10 a.m. -- Brett McIntosh/Noori Hyun (U-M) vs. Cody Gribble/Jonathan Schnitzer (Texas)
8:20 a.m. -- Matt Alessi/Chris O'Neill (U-M) vs. Jordan Spieth/Toni Hakula (Texas)

Michigan will play either No. 4 seed UCLA or No. 5 seed Georgia in Monday's afternoon round, which will be foursomes (alternate shot).

Unique Format
After four ball and foursomes play Monday, the teams will play singles Tuesday. In each 18-hole match four total points will be available: one point each for the front nine and back nine and two points for the overall match. The team with the most points will advance in the brackets, while the loser will move to the consolation bracket. Each team will play three matches.

Tournament Preparation
To prepare for the unique tournament format, coach Chris Whitten split the team into two four-man teams for the Senior Cup, with seniors Miguel Echavarria and Matt Alessi serving as captains. The pairings for the Stanford Classic played the different tournament formats, allowing them to build some chemistry and get used to the formats that are seen in events such as the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup but rarely in college or junior tournaments. Each of Michigan's three two-person teams has a freshman on it. In another rarity for a college event, caddies have been assigned to each school and will be with that team throughout the practice round and three competition rounds.

Wolverine Supporter
The team will have fan support from at least one Cypress Point Club member in Tony Ridder. Ridder, a U-M graduate who is in his third year as club president at Cypress Point, hosted the players and staff for dinner at his home Sunday night and shared some of the history of Cypress Point as well as how the Stanford Classic came to be. The indoor short-game practice area at Michigan's Weisfeld Family Golf Center is named for Ridder and his late wife, Connie.

A Special Place
Cypress Point Club opened in 1928 and is consistently rated among the top five courses in the United States, coming in at No. 2 on Golf Magazine's 2011 list. The course features holes in the forest, dunes and seaside, including the stretch of holes 15, 16 and 17 that border the Pacific Ocean. Like the University of Michigan Golf Course, Cypress Point was designed by Alister MacKenzie.

Second Trip to Cypress for Whitten
Head coach Chris Whitten was scheduled to play Cypress Point during the team's spring break trip in March 2010 when he was the Wolverines' assistant coach, but that morning he received a call from his wife, Amy, informing him that she was in labor with their first child. Whitten rented a car, drove to the San Francisco airport and flew back to Detroit in time for the birth of son Graham. The Whittens' second child, son Lucas, was born in January 2012.

High-Powered Field
All seven of Michigan's possible opponents this week are listed in the top 20 of the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings. Defending NCAA champion Texas is ranked No. 2, followed by No. 4 Washington, No. 7 Southern Cal, No. 9 UCLA, No. 12 Duke, No. 15 Georgia and No. 18 Stanford. Among the top individuals in the event are Stanford's Patrick Rodgers, listed No. 3 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings, and Texas' Jordan Spieth, who is ranked No. 8.