Gareth Shaw and Johnny Caldwell capped a stellar seven days in the United States on Monday when they learned their destination for the NCAA Regional championships later this month.
Both Irishmen were already celebrating call-ups to the European Palmer Cup team for the Ryder Cup-style event against their American collegiate counterparts in Scotland this summer.
Shaw, from Lisburn, was also this week named his conference’s player of the year after becoming the Atlantic Sun Conference individual champion at the end of April, a victory that elevated him to a national ranking of 11th in United States collegiate golf.
Belfast’s Caldwell, of the University of South Alabama, recently won the 2008 Sun Belt Conference Golf Championship, breaking by one stroke the 12-year 54-hole tournament low score of 206 set by current PGA Tour member and former South Alabama alum Heath Slocum. He has now jumped to number 85 in the US rankings.
Both men will be appearing at the May 15-17 NCAA East Regional Championship at The Council Fire Golf Club in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Shaw qualified as a member of the all-British and Irish East Tennessee State University team, and Caldwell as one of six individuals in the 27-team field.
Shaw’s 21st-ranked Buccaneers’ men’s golf team are seeded seventh in the East with another Irishman, Cathal O’Malley, set to appear for the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s 10th-seeded team.
There will be hot competition at Council Fire, with the national tournament's No. 1 overall seed Georgia leading the field as well as No. 9 Charlotte, for which squad Dubliner David Rawluk is a member, No. 12 South Carolina, tournament host No. 13 Chattanooga and No. 14 Duke.
Three 54-hole regional tournaments will be conducted May 15-17, each with 27 teams and six individuals not on selected teams. Ten teams and two individuals not on advancing teams will move on from each regional to the championship finals, which will take place May 28-31 on the Kampen Course at the Birck Boilermaker Golf Complex in West Lafayette, Indiana.
Gavin Reid of Ballynahinch has a chance of performing in the NCAA West Regional after his Univeristy of Southern California team, ranked third in the nation, was assigned top seeding for the Seattle (Washington) tournament. The Irish freshman faces a big contest for places, however, with the Trojans boasting defending NCAA champion Jamie Lovemark and other top American amateurs in their ranks.
Meanwhile, Banbridge golfer Ciaran McAleavey bowed out of US collegiate golf on a high last weekend when he captured individual medalist honours competing for Toledo at the 2008 MAC Championships. McAleavey fired a four-under par 68 in the final round to finish with a two-under-par 286 (70-74-74-68), one stroke ahead of Eastern Michigan’s Peter Sauerbrei (71-71-75-70).
McAleavey had entered the day in a three-way tie for fourth place but birdied the first three holes on the back nine to propel him to the first tournament win of his career.
“Ciaran really put it all together today and it was great to see him close out his career with a conference title,” Toledo head coach Jamie Mauntler said.