Harvard of the West? Stanford is the obvious choice.
Georgia Regents University of the West? While that distinction is far less inspiring, it’s one Chris Hall wouldn’t mind Sacramento State owning.
As it pertains to men’s golf, at least.
Georgia Regents – or Augusta State, as it was known until a merging of schools in 2012 – won back-to-back NCAA men’s golf titles in 2010 and 2011. Golf, at Georgia Regents, is the only one of the school’s 13 sports to compete at the Division I level.
If Georgia Regents can take its golf team to such heights, why not Sac State? There are many answers: Money. Culture. Priorities. Tradition. Facilities. Community involvement. And, ultimately, the talent that comes with those things.
Yes, Georgia Regents is located in the city where the Masters is played, but its players don’t have any more access to Augusta National than the Hornets.
However, there is this: “If we were going to have a golf team in Augusta, it might as well be the best,” said Taylor Lamb, Georgia Regents’ media relations director.
In Sacramento, a golf community as good as any in the country, that sense of purpose doesn’t exist. Hall, in his fourth year as the Hornets’ coach, is determined to change that.
He established the Sacramento State Invitational last year to raise the program’s local profile. The second annual event, a 54-hole D-I tournament, will be contested Monday and Tuesday at Valley Hi. Nevada and Pacific are in the 12-team field.
A college-am, a program fundraiser, is Sunday. For $175, participants get a round at Valley Hi with two fellow amateurs and two college players, dinner and the satisfaction of giving the team a boost.
Every bit helps, but if Sac State is going to make any significant steps up the golf hierarchy, it’s going to need an out-of-the-blue player or team to make enough noise at the national level to warrant national attention or get some serious financial support. Money doesn’t buy players, but it provides access to a quality home base for practice and allows for increased travel, a better tournament schedule and potential national ranking.
“The really good programs run off of endowments,” Hall said.
“That’s what separates them.”
Hall declined to disclose his budget, but it’s far less than what the big dogs spend. The NCAA allows schools to provide 4.5 men’s golf scholarships; the Hornets provide 2.5.
So, for now, Sac State attempts to do more with less. Identify diamonds in the rough, win the America Sky Conference and get to the postseason. Those are the goals.
The Hornets, who reached a D-I program-best national ranking of No. 84 in 2012 and the postseason for the first time since going D-I in 1992, are currently ranked No. 109 out of 302 D-I golf teams.
Owen Taylor leads the charge individually. He’s broken par in 12 of 18 rounds this year and averages 71.11 strokes. Jordan Weir (Oak Ridge High School) will also be in the Hornets’ lineup.
“We’re a family,” Hall said. “We work out, play golf and study together. A lot of the other schools don’t have that. Their players may only see each other at tournaments.
“The guys that are here want to see the program evolve and get better. We want people to know who we are.”
Call The Bee’s Steve Pajak, (916) 326-5526.