The Aggie men's golf team begins postseason play this week as it aims for a conference title during the 2018 SEC Championship which tee off Wednesday at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.
"We are excited," Texas A&M head coach J.T. Higgins said. "The guys love this golf course. The competition is fantastic and we are excited to go after these guys. There’s so many good teams and we know we are going to have to play our best. This is what we play for all year. We can’t wait to get out there and get going.”
Sea Island Golf Club, which will host the SEC Championship for the 18th year, has been named the No. 4 golf resort in the United States and hosted multiple USGA events in addition to the PGA Tour's McGladrey Classic. The par-70, 7,005-yard Seaside Course was named one of the top-100 courses in the U.S. by Golf Digest and has been the site of the SEC Championship since 2010.
For the second consecutive year, the SEC Championship will mirror the NCAA Championship with a match play portion that follows three rounds of stroke play. The top eight teams in the team standing following 54-holes of stroke play earn spots in the match play quarterfinals. The golfers will tee off 18 holes each day from Wednesday through Friday before the field gets trimmed for two rounds of match play on Saturday. Sunday’s match play final will be televised live on the SEC Network.
Last season, the Aggies took second place at the SEC Championship, falling in sudden death playoff holes to Vanderbilt, giving Texas A&M consecutive second-place finishes at the event. A&M’s 2018 SEC lineup includes four of the five golfers from last season’s finalist team.
"We’ve had two really good chances to win the last few years," Higgins added. "The guys really brought their best stuff out here to Sea Island and I have no doubt they will again this year. If you keep putting yourself in that position, eventually you are going to come away with one. We aren’t going to do anything different. Just go and play the golf course the way we know how. I believe we will be right there again with a chance to win."
The strength of the conference will be on display at the event as SEC squads make up five of the top nine teams in the country. Additionally, 13 of the 14 schools (No. 2 Vanderbilt, No. 3 Texas A&M, No. 6 Alabama, No. 7 Auburn, No. 9 LSU, No. 11 Florida, No. 15 Arkansas, No. 23 Kentucky, No. 32 Ole Miss, No. 34 Missouri, No. 43 South Carolina, No. 45 Tennessee and No. 48 Georgia) competing in the event appear in the top 50 of the April 18 edition of the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings. The conference also boasts an individual field of 33 of the top 100 golfers in the country.
All-American Chandler Phillips leads the Aggies into the SEC Championship as the 13th- ranked golfer in the country. During his junior season, Phillips has won three individual titles and tied the A&M career win honors with five. The Huntsville, Texas, native is on pace to set the single-season school scoring record, an honor he already holds with 71.15 strokes-per-round last season. In his two previous trips to the SEC Championship Phillips posted fifth and third-place showings.
Freshman Walker Lee joins the Aggie lineup after capping off his first collegiate regular season with a tournament title at the Aggie Invitational. Senior Andrew Paysse makes his 11th appearance in the starting lineup for the season during which he has three top-10 showings and a 72.30 scoring average.
Sophomores Brandon Smith and Dan Erickson round out the A&M contingent. The pair are ranked 37th and 94th in the nation, respectively, and will both be making their second SEC Championship appearance.
This season, the Aggies have set a program record with five first-place finishes and spent the majority of the season in the top-three of the national rankings. After the SEC’s, the Aggies will look to return to the NCAA Tournament as their home course of the Tradition’s Golf Club will host regional play.