USF Sarasota-Manatee plays its part as NCAA Golf Championship arrives

The University of Florida welcomed NCAA women golfers to a reception Thursday night at the Polo Grill in Lakewood Ranch. Left to right: USFSM student Ambassador John Akar, golfing legend Annika Sörenstam, student Ambassador Lauren Henry and radio personality Lulu.

The University of South Florida welcomed NCAA women golfers to a reception Thursday night at the Polo Grill in Lakewood Ranch. Left to right: USFSM student Ambassador John Akar, golfing legend Annika Sörenstam, student Ambassador Lauren Henry and radio personality Lulu.

SARASOTA, Fla. (May 22, 2015) – They receive little fanfare and work mostly behind the scenes.

As dozens of the best collegiate golfers arrive this week and next for the 2015 NCAA Golf Championship, hundreds of volunteers, including from USF Sarasota-Manatee, will work beside the athletes and in the background to ensure the 13-day event runs smoothly.

USF is playing host to the annual men’s and women’s Division I golf championship – a huge win for the university, which for this year’s match-play is fielding a highly competitive men’s team. But it’s also a coup for USF and the local venue in terms of publicity and exposure.

Among the media members, the Golf Channel plans to air live coverage highlighting what could be the game’s future stars. It will also mark the first time in 18 years, the NCAA Women’s Division I Championship has aired live on television. Both of which are a plus to host USF.

“Any time we can focus attention on USF and our community it’s a good thing, and we are thrilled to have the NCAA championship here,” Brian Siegrist, associate athletic director for communications, said.

The event is scheduled for The Concession Golf Club, 7700 Lindrick Lane in Bradenton.

A verdant championship course, The Concession has previously hosted Big Ten and Calloway match-play tournaments. For this year’s NCAA Division I championship, 24 women’s teams and 12 individuals will compete. The men’s side will see 30 teams and six individuals play.

Set to greet the arriving caravans of players, coaches, fans and media are about 500 volunteers, including a dozen from USF Sarasota-Manatee – students, alumni and faculty.

Dr. Jim Curran, a golf fan and interim dean of the College of Business and College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership, will be among them.

“The NCAAs are a big deal and I think it’s great to have them in this area. I wish we could have them here more often,” he said. “You get to see close up how these young men and women play. You get to experience the tournament first-hand and see how these players go about their business.”

Dr. Curran expects to hold three volunteer jobs during the championship: helping coordinate parking, “ball spotting” or identifying where balls land, and score keeping.

Women’s matches began today and will continue through May 27. The men’s games start May 29 and run through June 3.

“I’ve been to professional tournaments before, but I’ve never been to an NCAA tournament, so this should be fun,” Dr. Curran said.

USF Sarasota-Manatee alum Eric Kuusela, a special agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, is lending a hand as well. He said he was assigned to the Holiday Inn in Lakewood Ranch to greet arriving players, hand them gift bags with towels, water bottles and other items and answer questions.

On Wednesday, he spent about eight hours at the Holiday Inn, along with another alum, greeting women players, their families, coaches and support staff. He expects to be back there, or at another hotel, next week, when the men check-in.

“It’s a good thing for me to get out, not just with the student volunteers, but with other alumni to play my part,” he said.

The university petitioned the NCAA to host the Division I championship, a highly competitive process in its own right, years ago. The odds were stacked against the university, though. Rarely has a Florida school been selected to host Division I championship games. The last time the men’s tournament came to Florida was 25 years ago. The women last played in the Sunshine State in 2007.

“It speaks very highly of the tremendous golf facilities and beautiful weather we have in the Tampa Bay area as well as the support of our university, community and staff that do such a tremendous job of hosting teams from around the nation and running top-notch events,” Siegrist said.

After the women arrived Wednesday, a reception was held Thursday night at the Polo Grill in Lakewood Ranch. Lauren Henry, a business major entering her senior year at USF Sarasota-Manatee, was among those greeting players and coaches and getting them checked-in.

The best part of the event? Hearing guest speaker Annika Sörenstam, one of the greatest women golfers of all time, describe her work ethic and preparation for tournaments, she said.

“I don’t know that much about golf, but hearing her talk about goal setting and visualization and how she prepares … it was very inspiring,” Henry said.

There is still time to get tickets to the matches. For schedules and ticket information, click: http://www.ncaagolfchampionships.com/?KEY=&DB_OEM_ID=7700&DB_LANG=&IN_SUBSCRIBER_CONTENT=