FAYETTEVILLE – Good thing the University of Arkansas hosted the NCAA Golf Championships last year rather than this year. For not only did The Blessings provide the home course setting for 2019 Razorbacks senior Maria Fassi winning last year’s individual NCAA Women’s Championship, but the UA apparently wouldn’t have hosted the next NCAA Women’s Championships in 2022 had it been set to host in 2021.
Since mid March the NCAA canceled all spring sports because of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, Arkansas Women’s Coach Shauna Taylor was asked the what if had Arkansas been scheduled to host this year’s NCAA Women’s Tournament. The tournament was scheduled May 22-27 to be hosted by Arizona State in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Would Arkansas hosting a canceled tournament deprived it hosting the following year? “Actually we had a call today about that,” Taylor said on Thursday’s teleconference. “And I think actually they would have (been knocked out of the rotation). Arizona State is hosting this year in the first year of a 3-year contract and next year will just be kind of like the second year of their contract. I do believe we would have lost the opportunity to host the national championship at home.”
Coach Brad McMakin’s Razorbacks at The Blessings hosted the NCAA Men’s Tournament last year. This year’s Men’s Championship also would have been hosted by Arizona State starting May 29 in Scottsdale.
McMakin’s men suffered misfortune as a team in last year’s NCAA Regionals. The Hogs qualified only then freshman Julian Perico for the NCAA Tournament, but earlier peaked as a team winning the SEC Championship. Returning seniors Mason Overstreet, William Buhl, Louis Garza and Tyler Reeder were determined for a SEC repeat when the SEC Tournament was still scheduled to tee off April 22 in St. Simons Island, Ga.
“Obviously defending the SEC Championship and the opportunity for these seniors to win two in a row was a goal of ours this year,” McMakin said. “So obviously from our end it was disappointing.” However all, or at least three, should return next year.
The NCAA has granted the same 2020 class eligibility in 2021 for all athletes competing in the spring sports like golf, tennis, baseball, softball, and outdoor track.
“Obviously I have three or four seniors that were a big impact to our program,” McMakin said. “So definitely excited for them to have the opportunity for them to come back and compete again next year.”
McMakin said financial issues created by the pandemic could change situations, but for now only Garza in Mexico seems “uncharted with all that’s going on there.” Sophomore Perico of Peru remains in Fayetteville. “They’ve got a shutdown in Peru and he can’t get home,” McMakin said.
The UA’s Fayetteville campus has been closed since March 12 with spring semester classes now conducted online. Overstreet of Kingfisher, Okla. and the NCAA Tournament runner-up as a freshman and last year’s SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year, said on Thursday’s teleconference he’s definitely returning. Oklahoma hasn’t yet closed its golf courses so Overstreet said he’s still playing though he expects that to cease soon.Kingfisher has reported its first coronavirus positive case, Overstreet said.
Mainstays Fassi, Kaylee Benton and Dylan Kim completed their eligibility for Taylor’s NCAA tied for 24th women’s team last year but she’s been thrilled by this season’s “young team” led by freshman Kajal Mistry of Johannesburg, South Africa. Mistry also remains in Fayetteville rather than risking her health with 25 hours flying home with a layover in Europe, Taylor said. “She’s done amazing,” Taylor said. “I always joke with her, do you have a sister because her parents did such an amazing job raising her. She’s obviously very seasoned with her golf. She stepped right in and made a tremendous mark on our program in her first year.” Mistry has been staying with the family of third-year sophomore Brooke Matthews in Rogers.
Taylor has only one senior, Canadian Grace St-Germain, and saw a team budding this year she expects blossoming next year. “I am really proud of the progress we made,” Taylor said