As it fights for an NCAA Championship berth in Tuesday’s final round of the Stillwater Regional, Sam Houston State will have to do so with just four players – and without its star.
Bearkats head coach Brandt Kieschnick confirmed to GolfChannel.com on Tuesday morning that his team will be down two players because of COVID-19 protocols. The school later released a statement announcing that senior Will Holcomb was one of them because of "contact tracing." The other was the team's substitute player.
Before being forced to withdraw and begin quarantine, Holcomb was 6 under and in second place individually through 36 holes at Karsten Creek. The Bearkats shot 4 over during Monday’s 36-hole day and begin Tuesday in sixth place, one shot back of fifth-place Northwestern, but they won't have the luxury of a drop score for their final round.
The top five teams after 54 holes advance to next week’s national championship at Grayhawk.
"This is truly heartbreaking for Will," Kieschnick said. "He played phenomenal yesterday and has put us in this position. He has handled this like the champion he is. I had a great meeting with the rest of the guys and they are looking forward to this opportunity. We have a chance to do something really special today. All year long we have dealt with different scenarios we’ve never faced before, and this is just another challenge that has been placed before us. We have a great group of guys and I’m fully confident in their ability to go out and perform at a championship level today."
Sam Houston State has never qualified for the NCAA Championship, though the Bearkats' No. 8 seed this year was the program's best in five regional appearances.
Kieschnick is also the women’s head coach at Sam Houston State, which saw its season end last week at the NCAA Baton Rouge Women’s Regional, which was canceled without a single shot being played because of weather and substandard course conditions.
In other COVID-related news, the NCAA announced later Tuesday that Sacramento State, the 14th seed at the Cle Elum Regional, had to withdraw because of "COVID-19 protocols." The Big Sky champs were 13th out of 14 teams after Round 1.
"After consulting with the NCAA Championship Medical Team, the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Committee regrets to announce that, due to COVID-19 protocols, Sacramento State will be unable to continue to participate in the 2021 Division I Men’s Golf Championships," the NCAA statement read. "Sacramento State was competing in the Cle Elum regional in Washington state this week. Because of privacy issues, no further details will be provided."