Carlos Ortiz and Rodolfo Cazaubon have reached the regional round of the NCAA golf tournament plenty of times before — three to be exact.
It’s getting past the regional that has proven problematic for the North Texas seniors.
Ortiz and Cazaubon advanced to the regional round as individuals at the end of their freshman seasons and were members of UNT’s teams that played in a regional in each of the last two years.
That’s where their season has ended in all three years of their college careers.
Their last chance to get to the final round of the national tournament begins today, when UNT plays in the Pullman Regional in Pullman, Wash. UNT, which is ranked No. 37 nationally, enters the event at the Palouse Ridge Golf Club seeded seventh in the 14-team field.
The top five teams advance. UNT tees off at 10:40 a.m.
“It would be very special,” Cazaubon said of advancing. “It’s something that I really want to do before we leave. I want to be a part of nationals. It’s a great tournament, and we would be able to compete against the best in the nation. If you get to that point, you never know what can happen.”
UNT came up just short last year, finishing seventh in the Bowling Green regional in Kentucky. The Mean Green will look to break through this season and add to UNT’s considerable golf legacy.
UNT won four straight national titles from 1949-52, but has not advanced to the finals since finishing third in 1963.
UNT’s veteran players and head coach Brad Stracke believe this season’s regional tournmanet will offer the Mean Green an opportunity to break through, largely because of the experience of its team. UNT will have four seniors in its lineup — Ortiz, Cazaubon, Curtis Donahoe and Marco Scarola. Sophomore Jason Roets also will be in the lineup.
“Experience makes a huge difference,” Stracke said. “You are more relaxed, know what to expect and are ready to go.”
Stracke said the field in UNT’s regional this week is not as tough as it was a year ago, but there are plenty of top national programs in the tournament.
California is the top ranked team in the country and the top team in the field, followed by TCU, USC, St. Mary’s, Virginia Tech and BYU.
“We have a great chance just like last year,” Ortiz said. “This time we will have to see if we can put it together.”
The experience UNT has gained over the last few years will certainly help. More than anything, those previous trips to regionals have taught UNT’s players to stick with their routine.
“The experience we have should help, but it won’t be any different than any other tournament we have played,” Ortiz said. “We just need to put some good rounds together. That’s what it takes.”
UNT has done just that more often throughout the four years Ortiz and Cazaubon have spent playing for the Mean Green. UNT has won the last two Sun Belt Conference titles and gradually elevated its national profile under Stracke.
Ortiz and Cazaubon were named to the All-Sun Belt Conference team in each of their four seasons at UNT.
Stracke likes UNT’s chances to break through and get to the national finals largely because both will be playing in their fourth straight regional for the Mean Green.
“They have been itching to get to the finals since they have been here,” Stracke said. “This is their last chance. They are going to do everything they can to try to make it.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 or via Twitter at @brettvito.