With 21 out of the 30 teams in the field receiving recognition in the NAIA preseason coaches' poll, the first University of Houston-Victoria Claud Jacobs Intercollegiate Invitational should develop into a down-to-the-wire finish for both the men and women.
The exclusive NAIA field will feature nine of the top 20 men's team, including the top three teams, in the NAIA preseason poll. On the women's side, five of the top 15 teams will be in the field when the two groups tee off in the Feb. 17-18 event in Victoria.
The men's event will be a 54-hole shootout at Victoria Country Club, while the women will play in a 36-hole event at the newly renovated The Club at Colony Creek.
"This event will truly test your skills and your nerves, especially being one of the first events of the spring," said UHV golf coach Brian Williamson.
The men's squads will include top-ranked Texas Wesleyan, No. 2 Oklahoma City and No. 3 California state-San Marcos, along with No. 10 Northwood University (Texas) in the 16-team field. Other ranked teams include No. 12 Our Lady of the Lake, No. 16 Grand View, No. 17 Lubbock Christian, No. 18 William Woods and No. 20 Wayland Baptist, along with Rogers State, who received votes in the NAIA preseason coaches' poll.
Along with host UHV, UT-Brownsville, SUNY Delhi (N.Y.), Dakota Wesleyan, Northern New Mexico and Houston St. Thomas round out the men's field.
Nine NAIA All-American from 2012 are also expected in the field and include first-teamers James Marchesani of Oklahoma City, Nathan Anderson of Texas Wesleyan, and Julian Taylor of William Woods. The list also includes second team All-American Michael Palmer of Oklahoma City, along with third teamers Aaron Ahrendsen of Grand View, Niel Du Preez of Lubbock Christian, Aaron Flores of Our Lady of the Lake, and Dillon Watkins and Jose Rolz of Texas Wesleyan.
Oklahoma City won its eighth NAIA national title in 11 years last year with a three-stroke victory over Oklahoma Christian after posting a 72-hole 1176 score. Texas Wesleyan finished sixth at 1189, while Our Lady of the Lake tied for seventh at 1190 and William Woods was ninth with an 1196.
"The men's and field is exceptional and you are going to have to come to play to have a shot at the title," Williamson said. "The winner is going to be the team that can group four good scores together with very few miscues each round. It is probably going to take being in the mid to low-290 scoring range to win."
The women's field will be just as tough with 11 of the 14 teams earning recognition in the NAIA preseason coaches' poll. Among the leaders in the field will be No. 4 Oklahoma City, No. 6 William Woods and No. 7 Cal State-San Marcos. Rounding out the top-25 teams in the field are No. 13 Wayland Baptist, No. 15 Northwood and No. 23 UT-Brownsville, while five teams – UHV, Dakota Wesleyan, Grand View, Rogers State and Texas Wesleyan – received votes in the preseason poll.
Rounding out the field will be Houston St. Thomas, Northern New Mexico and SUNY Delhi (N.Y.).
"You're going to see a good competitive field on the women's side," Williamson said. "You have three top-10 teams in the field and nearly the entire field has received recognition in the first NAIA poll of the year. You're definitely going to have to come to play and keep it in the low 300s to have a shot at winning."
Four NAIA All-Americans are expected in the field on the women's side and include first teamers Jessica Schiele of Oklahoma City and Jamie Palermo of William Woods, along with honorable mention selections Taylor Howard of Oklahoma City and Sarah Helly of Wayland Baptist.
The tournament is also expected to be beneficial to both the UHV golf program, which just completed its second season of competition, and the City of Victoria.
"With the number of schools and players coming to Victoria for this event, it is a great opportunity for the citizens of Victoria to show off our community to other institutions of higher education," Williamson added. "It should be a win-win opportunity for UHV and the City of Victoria."