published Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

UTC Mocs' Chris Robb focuses now on NCAA medal chase

  • photo
    UTC senior golfer Chris Robb played only three holes at his Division I national championship tournament because of bad weather.
    Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The afternoon seemed perfect.

Hawks, maybe even an osprey, flew over the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga golf practice facility Tuesday during an 82-degree day.

It also seemed quiet. Too quiet for the liking of coach Mark Guhne. The only golfers there were Chattanooga resident Andrew Weathers, UTC freshman Zach Stolz -- who was there with his father visiting from Australia -- and senior Chris Robb, who will compete for an NCAA championship starting Friday.

"I want to keep doing what I'm doing," Robb said. "I want to focus on what I can do and not other things."

The rest of the UTC team is gone for the summer. The Mocs weren't hitting balls on the range or playing the three-hole course off Hickory Valley Road.

The Mocs tied for sixth in the NCAA West Regional and did not advance to the national championship tournament as a team. The team's international players have flown home. The American players have driven home and sketched out their summer schedules.

"They're all gone," Guhne said.

But not Robb. He advanced to the culminating tournament as an individual after winning a sudden-death playoff in the regional at Eugene (Ore.) Country Club.

"We always knew that we were a good team, and even going to regional our goal was to get through, and we got close," Guhne said. "But we're disappointed that we didn't get it done as a team."

The national championship event begins Friday at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan. The top 40 and ties after three rounds play another 18 holes, which will be broadcast on the GolfChannel.

The top eight teams will then switch to match play to determine the national team champion.

Robb will be there as an individual seeking the medalist trophy. Along with that trophy comes an exemption into the U.S. Amateur, the same major amateur tournament that former teammate Steven Fox won.

But Robb won't be in Kansas by himself. UTC volunteer assistant coach David McKenna will be walking with him. It's a tradition, and a strategy, that has led to success.

"He likes to keep his mind on other things," McKenna said. "During the SoCon [tournament], I was quizzing him on jazz material for a test. I was quizzing him all day. I think it kept him loose.

"He likes me there to talk, but I can club him pretty well, too."

No matter the results, Robb will leave as one of the best UTC golfers of all time. He will have played in four NCAA regionals, been part of a team that won a regional and won two tournaments in his college career.

"Chris has been a huge part of this program, a great leader," Guhne said. "He's been one of the guys that we count on. It's always hard to replace seniors. It's going to replace Chris on and off the golf course. He's been fantastic for us."

Robb is the first UTC player since Neil Connelly in 1993 to advance as an individual to the national championship tournament.

Connolly, who now lives in England, sent a message via email to Robb: "Just you against them, play hard, wear the colours with pride and enjoy every second, these moments define everything."

Robb is the first of three players from Scotland who have played for UTC with Guhne as the coach. Robb started the trend of some of the best players from the home of golf turning Chattanooga into their temporary home.

"Chris helped with getting Liam [Johnston], and then Liam helped with getting Ewan [Scott]," Guhne said. "If there's another one there like Chris, I'd love to have him. So far, it's worked really well for our program."

Earning a spot in the NCAA championship is feat. Winning medalist honors could help the program even more.

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.

about David Uchiyama...

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 ...

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