At this time of year, flying west to Oregon is much better than not traveling at all for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's golf team.
The Mocs spent every day since their runner-up finish in the Southern Conference tournament on April 22 worrying about whether they'd be selected to participate in an NCAA regional.
Coach Mark Guhne watched fishing shows into the early hours of Monday morning. Freshman Ewan Scott stayed up late crunching numbers. Junior Liam Johnston tried to get his mind off the situation: They're in and they play, or they're out and the season is over.
In the end, they're in.
The Mocs are the No. 11 seed in the West Regional and will compete May 15-17 at Eugene (Ore.) Country Club against 12 other teams. The top five (and the top individual not on one of those teams) advance to the national championship tournament May 23-28 at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan.
The Mocs were ranked No. 64 in the GolfStat ratings and had to make the field as an at-large team. No. 65 Oregon State did not make the field, which gave UTC the moniker of "last team in."
"It's been nerve-racking," Guhne said. "We've never been on the bubble in seven years. We've always left the conference championship knowing that we were going to a regional. It's been tough to come to practice every day not knowing if we're going.
"That sitting in limbo is a place we never want to be again."
Guhne learned of the Mocs' spot while watching the "Region Reveal" that GolfChannel aired Monday morning. He watched by himself in his office. Three regions were revealed before the Mocs were shown on the screen as landing in Eugene.
"After we got in, I texted the guys and said, 'Let's go to practice,'" Guhne said.
"Nobody in [McKenzie Arena] came in to sit down with me, which was nice because they all knew I was on edge. Then I heard them all yell from down the hall, so I knew everybody else was watching, which was cool."
The West Regional includes top-seeded Stanford and host Oregon as the only teams from the Pacific time zone. UTC will be joined by fellow Volunteer State teams in Tennessee and East Tennessee State, as well as Houston, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Baylor, Liberty, North Florida, Wichita State and Northern Colorado.
"I had one phone call this morning from a coach asking if I'd talk to The Honors or Council Fire to see if they'd host, because it would be a lot closer for everybody," Guhne joked. "We're flying to Oregon to play with teams that we've played with all year. In a way, that's kind of nice because we know everybody and we've had some success against those teams.
"I like where we're at; I like who we're playing against. If we do what we're supposed to do, then we have a legitimate chance to get through."
Defending national champion Alabama is the top seed in the Southeast Regional, which will be played at the Auburn University Club with the host Tigers seeded fourth. Middle Tennessee State is headed to Missouri, and Georgia Tech is the top seed at the regional in Raleigh, N.C. Georgia is the top seed in the Southwest Regional in San Antonio.
Guhne and his players had good reason to be nervous heading into Monday morning. But Johnston, who hails from Scotland, will be packing one piece of luggage to head west instead of several large suitcases headed over the Atlantic Ocean for the summer.
"I was thinking that if we don't make it that I'm going to pack my bags and go home," Johnston said Monday before practicing at Council Fire. "It's definitely a second wind. We have a week to get ready, get going and advance even further."
Contact David Uchiyama at email@example.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...