May 18, 2000
by Patrick Stevens, The Diamondback
The Terrapin men's golf team had a lot in its favor going into the postseason. Its two seniors were playing well at the same time.
The tea m won its last tournament, the Apr. 28-29 Wofford Invitational. And Golfstat ranked the Terps No. 53 in a sport that selects 81 teams for NCAA play.
But there was one small detail that the Terps hadn't prepared for: The NCAA did not invite the team to any of this week's NCAA regional tournaments.
"I feel bad for my team," coach Tom Hanna said. "They did everything that I told them they had to do before every tournament -- who we had to beat, what we had to shoot, they did it."
Seniors Gary Mankulish and Keith Unikel were invited as individual participants and will compete in the three-day East Regional at the Glenmaura National Golf Course in Moosic, Pa., beginning Thursday.
The Terps were caught in a numbers game. The NCAA adjusted the rules for inclusion to the tournament as three at-large teams from District III, which encompasses much of the ACC (part of the district's Northern area) and the SEC (of the Southern area), were selected.
"If there were four District III teams, North and South would have gotten two each and we would have been fine," Hanna said. "But since there were only three ... The at-large berths just ran out. It was a very odd year."
The Terps are the fourth-highest ranked team to be left out of the field, joining the College of Charleston (No. 43), Louisiana State (No. 49) and South Florida (No. 50) as snubbed teams ranked in the top 62. Meanwhile, automatic qualifiers Iona (No. 211), Dartmouth (No. 212), Towson (No. 226) and Maryland-Baltimore County (No. 235) will play later this week.
"They tried this formula, but I think they're going to have to take a hard look at it," Hanna said. "I'm not going to criticize any team that got in, but there are some teams that average well over 300 [strokes]. We average 294."
Added Mankulish: "I don't understand what rankings are -- what do they mean? We're ranked 53rd in the country and they take -some teams, and we're not going. It's a shock and I don't understand the system totally and maybe never will. It's very confusing and very disappointing."
Mankulish and Unikel, meanwhile, will cap their collegiate careers with their second straight appearances in the NCAA East Regional. The event, though, will be bittersweet because of the team's NCAA snub.
"It took us a long time before we really realized [Hanna] wasn't kidding around," said Unikel, an All-ACC selection who won two tournaments last month. "We thought he was messing around with us -- that's how positive we were."