May 9, 2000
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Maryland golf head coach Tom Hanna had a bittersweet evening on Tuesday while listening to NCAA selections for the 2000 men's golf championships. Hanna and the Terps had expected to qualify for NCAA regional competition, thus qualifying for postseason play in back-to-back seasons for the first time in nearly 30 years.
What he heard, however, was that standout seniors Keith Unikel (Potomac, Md.) and Gary Mankulish (Laurel, Md.) would represent the Terrapins at the NCAA East Regional in Moosic, Pa. --- as individuals. While the Terps had not expected to draw one of eight qualifying spots given to the top teams in District III North (its local district which includes schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference), they did expect to be named to one of the at-large positions awarded to 19 teams nationally. When Maryland did not earn one of those positions, Unikel and Mankulish were immediately drawn as the top remaining individual players from the district.
Unikel and Mankulish, under Hanna's tutelage, were selected to compete in the NCAA East Regional which is conducted May 18-20 at Glenmaura National Golf Club in Moosic, Pa. A practice round will be conducted next Wednesday, May 17 with three days of 18-hole competition beginning on Thursday, May 18. Low-scoring teams and individuals will advance to the NCAA Finals, May 31 to June 3, at Grand National Golf Course In Opelika, Ala.
Last season, Maryland reached the NCAA East Regional in Providence, R.I. where the Terps finished 17th out of 23 schools. In 2000, despite returning just two players from the '99 squad, Maryland has played its best golf during the month of April --- finishing third out of 19 teams at the Furman Intercollegiate and three weeks later earning top honors at the 10-team Wofford Invitational.
Had the Terps qualified as a team, it would have marked the first time since 1971 and 1972 that Maryland has reached NCAA competition in consecutive years.
"I'm disappointed that the team didn't make it," reflected Hanna. "We played really hard, the second half of the season especially. But as in any other sport, we have no idea the criteria used for the NCAA's selection and it's a tough break not to get in. I'm happy for Keith and Gary. They've obviously taken our program to another level during their four years and they both have a chance to advance to the finals. They are both strong players and it's the kind of course that they'll both play good on."
Hanna added, "It is through their leadership and strong performance this year, they put us in a position to even have a chance at being selected. They absolutely deserve the chance that they've been given to continue competing."
The senior tandem has carried the Terps all season. The duo has played together for four seasons on the College Park campus and last year helped Maryland to its first NCAA invitation since 1994. They were bidding to become the first duo in nearly 30 years of Maryland golf to play a part on two NCAA Tournament golf squads.
Unikel, regarded as the team's best and most consistent player while sporting a 72.20 stroke average, has been on fire in his last three tournaments. He took top individual honors at both the Furman and Wofford tournaments in April, and finished tenth at the ACC Championships in between his titles. He has shot six sub-par rounds in his last three tournaments, and combined for a 70.88 stroke average in those three outings. On Friday (May 12), Unikel is expected to become the first Maryland golfer ever to receive back-to-back all-conference honors in the talent-laden Atlantic Coast Conference. He also is a candidate for Academic All-America accolades with a 3.56 grade-point average in finance.
Mankulish, second to Unikel with a 72.90 stroke average, owns four top 10 finishes out of seven tournaments this spring and boasts an outside shot at All-ACC honors, himself. After besting Unikel in a one-hole playoff in U.S. Amateur qualifying last summer, Mankulish eventually advanced to the match-play round of 32 the U.S. Amateur in Pebble Beach, Calif. He and Unikel have been the mainstays of an otherwise very young Maryland team which, besides them, consists exclusively of first-year freshmen and sophomores.