The Southeastern Louisiana golf team will play its longest course of the season when the Lions tee off Thursday morning in the Baton Rouge Regional at The University Club.
But their drive from Hammond was a short, familiar one. Unlike their previous six NCAA regional appearances, Southeastern, the No. 12 seed, needed only a 45-minute bus ride Wednesday afternoon to begin what the Lions hope to make a memorable postseason.
“Fortunately, it’s right down the road,” Southeastern coach Tim Baldwin said. “So it’s the weather we’re used to, the Bermuda grass we’re used to, and we’ve seen the course several times. They’re focused. It’s all about getting off to a good start and getting some momentum going, and then you go surprise some people.”
Even though the trip to LSU’s 7,436-yard home course was a short one, the Lions have come a long way in bouncing back from a tough stretch during the fall portion of their schedule.
Now Baldwin brings to NCAA play a lineup that includes one senior, a sophomore and three freshmen and, after experiencing some growing pains, seems to have peaked at the right time.
“We didn’t start off real well in the fall,” Baldwin said. “We were kind of flat.”
Senior standout Rhys West, who took medalist honors at the Southland Conference tournament this year, missed parts of the fall while recovering from a rib injury.
But he is healthy again and carries a team-best 73.37 scoring average.
Also, the Lions have added Scottish freshman Lawrence Allan, who joined the program in January after missing the fall schedule.
Another key development has been the play of Nicholas Inderthal, who has dropped his scoring average to 75.46 since struggling in the fall.
“He has just caught fire,” sophomore Grady Brame said.
Brame, a St. Thomas Aquinas graduate, brings some local flavor to a Southeastern lineup that features four international players.
He also brings some serious knowledge of The University Club.
All the Southeastern golfers have played various practice rounds on LSU’s home course, but Brame has played it much more than most. That’s because he and his family are members.
“I’ve played the course 100 times,” Brame said. “I try to get over there as much as I can to try and challenge myself with the difficulty of the golf course.”
How difficult is the course?
“The difficulty level is to the extreme in every category you can think of,” Brame said. “Off the tee it’s not bad, but it’s long. And the greens are brutal — extremely severe. It’s just an extremely difficult golf course.”
Baldwin hopes Southeastern’s familiarity with its surroundings will help.
He also hopes that West can build on his performance in the Southland tournament.
West had never won a collegiate event until he overcame a one-stroke deficit on the final two holes to take the Southland crown April 22-24 in McKinney, Texas.
“I was long overdue,” West said.
Southeastern won the team title over Central Arkansas by 13 strokes to earn its fourth straight regional berth. The Lions are making their fifth trip to a regional since 2007.
“We knew we had to win the conference to get a spot,” Baldwin said of qualifying for the postseason. “It was pressure-packed all the way into the final round of conference.”