On the Marc in the NCAA

CHRIS STEVENSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:36 AM ET

Marc-Etienne Bussieres didn't know what to think when he got the phone call from his coach.

"He told me to sit down," recalled the junior at South Alabama who plays out of the Royal Ottawa Golf Club. "I knew it was going to be either really good or really bad."

It was really good. Bussieres was an at-large choice by the NCAA Division I Men's Golf Committee to participate in one of six regional tournaments May 14-16, just the ninth player in school history to earn an individual invite to the event.

"I'm really, really happy with that," said Bussieres. "I was kind of expecting it, but I didn't really know the odds of getting in the tournament, didn't know if my results were good enough. The field is pretty stacked."

Bussieres had a great junior season, culminating in the invite. He's tops on the Jaguars and eighth in the Sun Belt Conference with a 72.79 scoring average. He won the first individual title of his college career with an 11-under 205 at the Palmer's Toyota Fall Intercollegiate and had five Top 10 finishes in 10 tournaments.

Bussieres also tied for second at the Memphis Intercollegiate after carding an even-par 144 over 36 holes (the tournament was shortened by rain), and was third at the SBC Championships last month, boosted by a 5-under 67 in the last round.

Bussieres was ranked 150th among college players in the U.S., according to the Golfweek-Sagarin Performance Index, one of the factors considered by the NCAA selection committee.

"I'm very happy for Marc, this is the culmination of a great year for him," said Jaguars coach Ben Hannan. "He played extremely well from start to finish and is very deserving of this opportunity. I know that he is looking forward to competing against some of the best golfers in the country.

"This helps verify how good a player he is and, in my opinion, is a foreshadowing of things to come," Hannan told Sun Media.

Hannan said Bussieres has always had a very strong short game, while his full-swing mechanics have improved this year.

"I've been pretty consistent in my ball striking," said Bussieres. "My errors are a lot smaller."

His putting confidence has been growing, mostly because he has become a lot more comfortable judging speed.

"Whenever I hit it, I'm not fearing I'm going to three-putt," he said. "I feel like it's got a chance to go in the hole.

"I still have room to improve, but I feel like I'm going in the right direction."

Bussieres will be competing at the regional hosted by Central Florida and the Central Florida Sports Commission at the Red Tail Golf Club in Sorrento, Fla. He is one of five at-large selections competing in the three-day, 54-hole event that includes 14 teams.

The teams, in order of seeding, are: Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, UCF, Florida State, Arizona, Augusta State, Kentucky, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Iowa, Charlotte, Campbell and Loyola (Md.).

The low five teams and the low individual not on those teams will advance from each regional to the finals, May 26-30 at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio.

Bussieres was looking forward to finishing his exams -- he's studying international management and finance and keeping his grades in the 90s -- so he could hit the practice tee in preparation for next week's tournament.

Hear and there

Rideau View Country Club has extended an honorary membership to 67's GM Brian Kilrea in recognition of his "significant contribution to the community and, perhaps more importantly, the guidance he has provided to hundreds, if not thousands, of kids." Kilrea's longtime assistant coach, Bert O'Brien, who retired from the coaching ranks along with Kilrea at the end of the season, is a longtime member at Rideau View ... Golf Quebec has renewed its relationship with the Optimist Clubs to qualify three boys and three girls for the big Optimist International junior tourney. This year's qualifying round will be at Deux-Montagnes May 31. Visit optimist.org for more information.

CHRIS.STEVENSON@SUNMEDIA.CA


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