April 21, 2012
After competing with the same five-player team in recent weeks, Rice will have a change in its lineup for next week's Conference USA Championship.
The 54-hole C-USA Championship begins Sunday at Texarkana Country Club (par 72/6,935 yards). The tournament will be played over three days with 18-hole rounds slated for each morning. Pairings and tee times for the first round will be announced ahead of Sunday's play and live scoring will be available through Golfstat.com throughout the tournament.
"We have played against Conference USA schools throughout the season but obviously this will be the first time this year we have competed against all 10 conference teams," said first-year coach Justin Emil. "We look forward to seeing where we stand against the other programs in our league on a course which will certainly challenge every team."
Last year UCF shot a final round 280 (-8) to win the team title by two strokes over runner-up Memphis.
The Texarkana Country Club course includes subtle elevation changes, a lake on the front nine, meandering creeks on the back nine, tree-lined fairways and abundant sand and grass bunkers. Originally a nine-hole course opened in 1914, the current design has been in place since 1922.
The conference championship returned to Texarkana last year and returning lettermen Brock Wilson and Jeff Wibawa both have experience on the course. Last year Wibawa was the Owls' top finisher at the tournament as he fired a final-round 69 en route to a one-over par 217 and a tie for 13th. Wibawa was later named to the Conference USA All-Freshman Team.
Beyond Wilson and Wibawa, the Texarkana Country Club course will be uncharted territory for the rest of the Rice contingent.
Emil is wrapping up his first spring as the Owls' head coach and will travel a team which includes three freshmen.
Ragan returns to the Rice lineup for the first time since last fall. Behind Wibawa's 73.03 strokes per round average, Ragan's 75.67 average through the two tournaments he played in ranks second on the squad.
Since playing for the Owls in the fall, Ragan has undergone chemotherapy for Osteosarcoma, a malignant form of pediatric bone cancer he was diagnosed as having in 2006. He elected to focus on academics this spring but will return to competition next week.
"The team is fired up to have James Ragan back in the lineup," Emil said. "He is a big part of this team and I know he will give it everything he has out there."