The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's golf team has won five Southern Conference championships since the last time the Mocs had to win the tournament to advance to an NCAA regional.
That time has come again. The SoCon tournament runs today through Tuesday at National Golf Club in Pinehurst, N.C.
"We haven't gone to conference with our back up against the wall like this in a long time," UTC coach Mark Guhne said. "My second year was the last time we had to win."
The Mocs are ranked No. 61 by GolfWeek and are likely beyond the bubble for a potential at-large berth. It's possible that a second-place finish at Pinehurst could extend their season, but they're not thinking that way.
"To be assured we've got to win, but I think we've got a chance if we're in the top two, but after that our chances get real slim," Guhne said. "You have to sit down and be honest with them. We played ourselves into this position, and we have to play ourselves out of this position.
"They know it's do-or-die time. There's a lot on the line, and it's a different feeling."
Guhne has guided the Mocs to a regional in each of the last seven years with consistent regular-season success. They've been ranked as high as No. 1 in the country during that time, but this year has been a relative struggle, resulting in their likely win-or-done scenario.
Among other SoCon teams, Georgia Southern is ranked 48th by GolfWeek, and UNC Greensboro is No. 64.
"The main thing with college golf is you need five guys playing well at the same time," senior Davis Bunn said. "Hopefully we can get the ball rolling."
National Golf Club, which was designed by Jack Nicklaus, is a neutral course for all of the SoCon teams.
"There is added pressure to get the job done," UTC's Liam Johnston said. "I have no doubt that we can get the job done."
UTC has won the last two SoCon championships and five of the last seven. Stephen Jaeger was the last UTC player to earn medalist honors, and he did so in his All-America year of 2012.
The Mocs' five-man lineup for this tournament includes Johnston, Bunn, Wes Gosselin, Chris Robb and Ewan Scott. Guhne said each of them is capable of winning if all goes right and all have the capability to finish in the top 10. Six members of the team have had a top-10 finish this season in a tournament.
But the trouble, especially this year, has been getting four players to play up to their potential -- or close to it -- for each round.
"Our ultimate goal is to make it to the national championship," Bunn said. "We want to compete with the best teams in the country."
There have been some great rounds this year from individuals, but the team score has been compromised by having to count rounds in the high 70s.
"We haven't had everybody playing good at the same time," Guhne said. "If we have that, then we're as good as anybody. But that's something we've struggled with all season.
"We need all five to have a good tournament."
Contact David Uchiyama at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6484. Follow him at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...