By Cassie Logan | UTAMavs.com
ARLINGTON, Texas - UTA men's golf has a newfound swagger that's striking at the right time with the 2017 SBC Men's Golf Championship set to begin Sunday at Raven Golf Club at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort.
The Mavericks are fresh off more than a week of rest and final tune-ups coming into the three-day event in Miramar Beach, Fla. UTA concluded the regular season with three consecutive top-5 finishes and a peak in chemistry has developed a stronger unity in the team's latest play.
UTA associate head coach Casey Devoll noticed the men are a different kind of confident since the start of that successful stretch in March.
"Everybody across the board has started to contribute in every way," UTA head coach Stuart Deane said. "The fourth and fifth guys are playing well and have taken pressure off the front end, so one through three started playing better."
UTA will feature the same lineup used to claim three of the team's four best finishes throughout the 2016-17 campaign. The Mavs will be represented by seniors Zach Galliford and Josh Radcliff, junior Aaron Guanlao, and sophomores Tanner Gore and Camilo Avila.
The men will participate in a practice round on Saturday, warming up for 36 holes of stroke play on Sunday and another 18 on Monday. The four teams with the lowest scores will advance to match play on Wednesday. Tee times for rounds 1 and 2 are set for 7:30 a.m. CT.
The Raven course yardage for Round 1 is approximately 6,806 yards. Round 2 is stretched almost 6,863 yards and the final round is nearly 6,807 yards. The Mavericks are paired with players from Texas State and Appalachian State in the first two rounds.
Experience is key for UTA in this field as three of the five golfers competing have played 12 rounds on the Raven's Bermuda grass, the same ground of that in Arlington. Gore played his first four rounds as a freshman last season.
UTA has registered third, second and most recently fifth-place finishes at the SBC Championships, respectively. Guanlao is coming off back-to-back ties for eighth in Florida.
"They've already thought about how to play the course," Deane said. "What shots to hit off what tee and they can even look at a weather forecast to know how to play."
That maturity will be combined with a streaking momentum built off some of the team's most prominent performances to date. UTA turned a corner at the end of March, a comeback fueled by Gore and Guanlao.
The team had marked two 15th-place and an eighth-place finish when something clicked. Gore, the team's current leader in lowest scoring average (73.46), had a career showing to tie for fourth, as did the Mavs in their lowest finish at the time at the Cape Fear National Intercollegiate.
"Tanner is the most consistent guy on the team and that's relative to his talent and skillset," Deane said. "His season has been good. We've pushed very hard, but he could cap the year off the right way at the Sun Belt tournament."
One week later, Guanlao had a career showing of his own to tie for fourth at the Little Rock First Tee College Classic in Arkansas. UTA also bested their season-high finish with a tie for third. It was a much-needed week for the junior, who trails Gore slightly with a 73.69 score average, but struggled early.
The Haslet, Texas native has registered three top-10 finishes this season, and putting work with coaches and a confidence stemmed from lower finishes as of late has him currently playing his best golf.
"His last round there he shot 65, so it's a place he's familiar with," Deane said. "He's comfortable and confident, but he needs to get off to a good start. This is the best I've ever seen him play."
Both Gore and Guanlao are currently tied with nine rounds of par or better, three scored in the 60's. Catch Gore, Guanlao and the Mavs in action beginning Sunday with live scoring available on SBC Championship Central.
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