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COLLEGE STATION-The 13th-ranked Texas A&M men's golf team closes the regular season this weekend when the Aggies play host to the annual Aggie Invitational at Traditions Club.
The 10-team tournament runs Saturday and Sunday at the par-72, 7,146-yard home of A&M golf, which opened in 2004. Two rounds will be played on Saturday with a final 18 holes set for Sunday. Action gets underway both days at 7:30 a.m. and admission is free. Forecasters are predicting near perfect conditions for the tournament, with clear skies and temperatures in the 70s.
"We're so excited to host this tournament," head coach J.T. Higgins said. "We point to the Aggie Invitational as the start of postseason for us because once this is done we go straight to Big 12s, then regionals, then nationals. So this is a really important tournament for us. We want to win the last four. We have won this tournament the last two years and look to make it three in a row."
The field includes four of the nation's top 20 teams in No. 1 Texas, No. 18 Oregon, No. 13 Texas A&M and No. 16 New Mexico. In a mini preview of next week's Big 12 Championship, the entire Big 12 South will be competing this weekend at Traditions Club, with Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech joining the Longhorns and Aggies. Rounding out the field are Pac-12 members Oregon State and Utah. Overall, eight of the 10 squads in the field are ranked in the top 50 nationally.
Texas A&M is the two-time defending champion of the event, as the Aggies recorded an 18-shot victory last season and a record 21-stroke triumph in 2010. In a bit of a deviation from the normal scoring of collegiate golf tournaments, the Aggie Invitational will see teams made up of six, with five scores counting toward the team total. A&M will be paired with Texas throughout the day on Saturday and will tee off from the first hole beginning at approximately 7:30 a.m.
"We love being able to showcase Traditions Club," Higgins said. "It's everything to us. We wouldn't have the program we have without Traditions. The great thing about it is you have to play every shot well. It's got tiny greens and tight fairways. It's visually intimidating off the tee, and you have to hit a great tee shot to have a chance at a great second shot. I think the best thing is that it tests your mental toughness and tests your patience. You're going to have some bogeys and double bogeys, and you have to bounce back from that. If you can't, you're going to struggle."
Leading the Aggies into the weekend are senior All-American Jordan Russell (72.15 stroke average), who has finished second in each of the last two Aggie Invites. Senior Geoff Shaw (73.07) has posted three straight top-12 finishes, and earned his first career victory at A&M's last tournament-The Woodlands All-American Intercollegiate-by carding an 11-under 205 to best the field by two strokes.
Making up the remainder of the Aggies' six-man team are junior All-American Cameron Peck (71.76), junior Case Cochran (76.00), redshirt freshman Greg Yates (71.67), and true freshman Ty Dunlap (73.38). Junior Drew Evans (75.33) and sophomores Jade Scott (74.73), Johannes Veerman (71.80) and Ryan Kelley (72.00) will play as individuals.
"I've been telling anyone that will listen all year that this team reminds me so much of the '09 team (national champions)," Higgins said. "We are so strong at the top, and the thing we had to do this year was replace a lot of experience from last year's seniors and we've done that. Our team has been amazingly consistent this year and I think this is a team which has a chance to do a lot of damage in the postseason."
Fans can follow the action online at golfstat.com and aggieathletics.com. In addition, updates and photos can also be found through twitter at @AggieMensGolf.
AGGIE INVITATIONAL BREAKDOWN
April 20-21, 2012
Traditions Club (par 72/7,146 yards)
Host: Texas A&M
The Field (10 teams): (#1) Texas, (#8) Oregon, (#13) Texas A&M, (#16) New Mexico, Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon State, Texas Tech, Utah.
Format: team stroke play, 54 holes
Rounds 1&2: Saturday, 7:30 a.m. (CT) - holes 1 & 10
Round 3: Sunday, 7:30 a.m. (CT) - holes 1 & 10
A&M lineup: Jordan Russell (Sr., 72.15); Cameron Peck (Jr., 71.76); Ty Dunlap (Fr., 73.38); Geoff Shaw (Sr., 73.07); Case Cochran (Jr., 76.00); and Greg Yates (RFr., 71.67). Johannes Veerman (So., 71.80), Drew Evans (Jr., 75.33), Jade Scott (So., 74.73) and Ryan Kelley (So., 72.00) will play as individuals.
Live Scoring: Click Here (golfstat.com)
Updates: via twitter at @AggieMensGolf
Up Next: April 27-29, Big 12 Championship, Trinity, Texas (Whispering Pines)