After UTEP men’s golf senior Charles Corner walks across the Don Haskins Center stage to receive his diploma on Saturday, he’ll hop on a plane to California immediately after to prep for his run at the NCAA California Regional on Monday, May 14 with the first round of stroke play.
Competition at The Reserve at Spanos Park in Stockton, Ca., hosted by University of the Pacific, will run through Wednesday, May 16, with the highest-finishing individual not on an advancing team punching their ticket to the 2018 NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship. Corner, who completed his bachelor’s degree in finance, was one of 10 individuals selected to participate in the event, marking his second appearance at an NCAA Regional tournament and the first time he will compete as an individual.
Last season, he joined the Miners at the Washington regional where they competed as a team. Corner spearheaded the UTEP run all tournament and finished in a tie for 22nd.
“Having some experience playing a tournament of this magnitude is going to help [Corner],” head coach Scott Lieberwirth said. “He [Corner] knows what it looks like and feels like, he knows exactly what to expect. I think his game is going to fit very well to the course that we’re going to. The weather looks good, so I would assume there’s going to be quite a few birdies made. Charlie, on score-able courses, does tend to make quite a few birdies, so that part lines up. I’ve always felt the strength in his game is his putting, so that’s essentially what it’s going to be. If he can get hot with the putter and get his birdie game up, then he’s going to be well-positioned to get through.”
Taking the course alongside Corner will be 13 teams to include top-seed and No. 6 nationally-ranked LSU, No. 8 Alabama, No. 16 Stanford, No. 19 Southern California, Oregon, TCU, Colorado, Kansas, Kennesaw State, Iowa State, UNC Greensboro, UC Irvine, and North Dakota State.
Southern California boasts the No. 2 ranked player in the country in Justin Suh, while Oregon has Norman Xiong, ranked No. 5 in the country. Individual competitors include Carl Yuan (Washington), Riley Elmes (Loyola Marymount), Vinnie Murphy (Grand Canyon), Felix Mory (CSU-Northridge), Blake Tomlinson (Utah), Henry Kee (Washington), Jeremy Gandon (Kansas State), Ryan Han (UC Davis), and Michael Christifulli (Siena).
“He’s [Corner] competed very well in some of our more difficult events,” Lieberwirth said. “We know there’s going to be a ton of good players there, you’re going to have two of the top five players in the country in that field. You don’t know who the teams are that are going to advance and typically there’s some really strong individual play from somebody on a team that doesn’t advance. Anything outside the top-five, we would pretty much feel like that’s not going to be enough to get through to the championship.”
Since taking the reigns of the program in 2011, Liberwirth has had a UTEP golfer make an appearance in an NCAA Regional in six out of seven years. Former Miner Martin Simonsen made it in 2012, 2014 and 2015 and Frederik Drier, another notable golf alum, made his solo appearance in 2016.
UTEP sent the whole team to the NCAA Washington Regional in 2017 after winning the Conference USA Championship. Corner will continue that run in 2018.
“He’s got to go out and play his best,” Lieberwirth said. “Just like any other tournament, we don’t want to consume ourselves with the position we are currently standing in. He’s got a job to do of playing the best golf he knows how. Let the other guys shoot what they shoot, Charlie can only control Charlie.”
Corner’s post-season run was earned at the end of a phenomenal senior season. The Canada product earned a spot on the Conference USA All-Conference Second Team for the second consecutive year and finished his career with two Golfer of the Week honors. Corner was the Miners’ top finisher in four of five spring tournaments, notched three top-five finishes, and constructed a 72.4 stroke average. His second-place showing at the Price’s “Give ‘Em Five” Invitational helped lift the Miners to a team crown.
Corner’s excellence in the classroom did not go unnoticed, as he was one of five C-USA golfers named to the 2018 InTouch Credit Union All-Academic Team. He is also a multi-C-USA Academic Honor Roll member, C-USA Commissioner’s Academic Medal recipient and was a Golf Coaches Association of America Srixon/Cleveland Golf All-America Scholar in 2017.
“We’re going to miss Charlie,” Lieberwirth said. “I’m very proud of everything he’s done athletically and academically, he’s been a great representative of our program.”
Six 54-hole regional tournaments will take place beginning Monday, with 13 teams and 10 individuals not on those teams competing at each of three regionals, while the other three regionals will have 14 teams and five individuals not on those teams.
The low-five teams and the low individual not on those teams from each regional will advance to the finals. Team and individual medalist titles will be decided May 25-30 at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Oklahoma State University is the host institution for the 2018 championships.
Live stats for the regional tournament will be available via golfstat.com.