VALDOSTA -- Valdosta State's golf team opens play today at the NCAA Division II South Regional in Springfield, Mo.
Eight teams are participating in the 54-hole tournament which runs through Wednesday. The tournament is being played at the 6,700-yard, par-71 course at the Millwood Golf and Racquet Club.
Five Gulf South Conference and three Sunshine State Conference teams are participating. The South Regional is being played in conjunction with the South Central Regional at the same course.
Qualifying teams advance to the national tournament next week as part of the Division II Sports Festival in the Orlando area.
"This is where we are supposed to be at. It's a good sign of things to come," said second-year VSU head coach Jared Purvis.
This year's Blazer team has finished the season with three freshmen and two juniors in the lineup. That group finished fourth at the GSC tournament, nine shots behind winner Arkansas Tech.
Freshman Kevin Dutkowsky finished fifth (2-over 218) to earn first-team all-conference honors. Freshman Spencer Provow (eighth) and junior Brian Hurtak (13th) won second-team all-conference honors.
Freshman Josh Tompkins and junior Scott Meyer round out the traveling squad.
The Blazers had to overcome the loss of Chris Erwin, who advanced to the match-play round of the U.S. Amateur last summer. After playing for VSU this fall, he chose to turn professional.
"It's been a very up and down year with Erwin turning pro," Purvis said. "He was by far our No. 1 player, if not one of the top players in the nation.
"To see some of these guys step up, especially in this last tournament, is a good sign of things to come."
The region's top three seeds (West Florida, Delta State and North Alabama) are from the Gulf South, as well as GSC tournament champion Arkansas Tech. VSU was the last team selected for the regional.
Florida Southern, Lynn and Barry represent the Sunshine State Conference.
The 10 region champions advance to the national tournament, along with eight at-large teams selected from a pool of team finishing second through fifth in region play.
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