MUNCIE, Ind. -- The Ball State men’s golf team will tee it up for the first time since the 2013 NCAA Championships this weekend at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill.
The Cardinals, under the direction of 16th-year head coach Mike Fleck, are opening the 2013-14 season at the Northern Intercollegiate, the first of six tournaments on a challenging fall schedule.
The Ball State lineup will look considerably different than it did a season ago after the departure of four key seniors. Two-time all-region selection Tyler Merkel and McCormick Clouser return from the NCAA squad, but they will be joined in the youthful lineup by sophomore James Blackwell and freshmen Jon Schram and Keegan McKinney.
Blackwell gained some experience last season, playing as an individual in several tournaments and competing as part of the Cardinals’ lineup at the Golfweek Conference Challenge. Schram and McKinney, a pair of all-state golfers as Indiana high school seniors last year, will be competing in their first collegiate event.
Tyler Ostrom will also compete for the Cardinals as an individual at Rich Harvest Farms, which will play to a par-72, 7,236-yard layout.
The tournament’s 15-team field features 10 teams that played in an NCAA Regional last year: Ball State, Houston, Indiana, Kentucky, Liberty, North Texas, Saint Mary’s, San Diego, UCF and Virginia. Three of those teams -- Ball State, Saint Mary’s and UCF -- reached the NCAA Nationals.
Three more top-100 teams from a year ago -- Louisville, Ohio State and UT Arlington -- are also in the field along with Miami University and tournament host Northern Illinois.
This is the third year of the Northern Intercollegiate, a tournament at which Merkel was co-medalist in 2011 and finished in the top 20 in 2012. As a team, the Cardinals placed fourth in the inaugural tournament and seventh last year.
The 54-hole event gets underway with the opening round Friday at 8 a.m. CT (9 a.m. ET) and continues with the second round Saturday and the final 18 holes Sunday. Live scoring is available throughout the tournament at golfstat.com.