COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio State men’s golf team will open the second half of its schedule at the third-annual Big Ten Match Play Championship Fri.-Sat., Feb. 11-12. The two-day event will take place on the par 72, 7,048-yard Champion Course at PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

Big Ten Match Play Championship
Course: PGA National Resort-Champion Course (par 72, 7,048 yards)
Field: 11 teams (Golfweek/Sagarin rankings, Feb. 7)
Illinois (7)
Indiana (27)
Iowa (12)
Michigan (31)
Michigan State
Northwestern (32)
Ohio State (22)
Penn State
Purdue (30)

Ohio State will feature some familiar faces when it tees off at PGA National Resort. Seniors Bo Hoag and Brad Smith will each make their sixth-consecutive start of the season while fellow fourth-year Michael Cress will play in his fourth tournament of the year. Junior Dan Charen will be in the lineup for the fifth time this year with sophomore Matt Turner joining the starting squad for the second time. Zack Sobel will round out the Buckeye’s lineup with the first start of his sophomore campaign.

This will be the third year in a row the Big Ten has held the Match Play Championship, which began after changes were made to the format of NCAA Championships effective at the 2009 event to include an eight-team match play finale after the conclusion of 54 holes of stroke play.

Competition begins Friday with six conference squads vying in first-round competition. The teams are seeded based on the final fall rankings according to, with the top five seeds receiving first-round byes. Ohio State, the No. 3 seed, will square off in the quarterfinals against the winner of Purdue (sixth seed)-Michigan State (11th seed).  

The remaining quarterfinal matchups will pit top-seeded Illinois against the winner of Penn State (eighth seed)-Minnesota (ninth seed), fourth-seeded Northwestern against fifth-seeded Michigan and second-seeded Iowa against the winner of the Indiana (seventh seed)-Wisconsin (10th seed) matchup. Each paring consists of six individual matches between the schools. Play will begin 7 a.m. Friday with the Buckeyes teeing off around noon.

Semifinal and title matches for both championship and consolation brackets will take place Saturday.

The 2010 Match Play Championship provided success and solid overall play for the Buckeyes. After a convincing 5-1 win over Michigan State in the opening round, Ohio State tied Iowa 3-3 in its second match. Unfortunately, the Hawkeyes won the tiebreaker and sent the Buckeyes to a consolation-round matchup against Michigan. The Scarlet and Gray were close the entire match, but fell 3.5-2.5 to the Wolverines. The tournament ended on a high note with an emphatic 5-1 win over Indiana.

The tournament was highlighted by the play of former-Buckeye Brad Wright, then-junior Michael Cress and then-freshman Zack Sobel as each golfer posted a 3-0-1 mark for the event. Sobel’s play was rewarded with a spot on the Big Ten Match Play Championship All-Tournament Team.

The first half of the Buckeyes’ schedule started off with a bang and provided some career highlights for a handful of golfers. Seniors Bo Hoag and Brad Smith were the only two to start in all five tournaments for Ohio State, and the pair each chipped in four rounds in the 60s. As a team, Ohio State posted 15 rounds in the 60s in five tournaments combined as compared to just 11 during the entire 2009-10 campaign.

The best individual performance of the fall came from sophomore Jamie Sindelar. In the opening tournament of the year, the Marshall Invitational, Sindelar led the Scarlet and Gray with a career-best second-place tie to go along with a career-low three-round total of 11-under 220. Not surprisingly, the Marshall Invitational was also the strongest team performance as Ohio State came away with a first-place finish and team score of 32-under par (273-274-273 – 820). The victory was the first under second-year head coach Donnie Darr and the two rounds of 273 were the lowest for Ohio State since the 2004-05 season.

The Buckeyes also posted a runner-up finish at the Windon Memorial Classic Sept. 26-27 with a team score of 3-over 855. The Buckeyes finished just one stroke behind Big Ten foe Michigan for the title, but defeated Northwestern, Minnesota and Penn State in the process.

The third edition of the Big Ten Match Play Championship will be played on the Champion Course at PGA National. The course was originally designed by Tom and George Fazio with the intention of using it for major tournament play, but underwent a redesign by Ohio State’s own Jack Nicklaus in 1990. It now plays host to the Honda Open each March on the PGA TOUR.

The layout of the course will be sure to test every golfer’s meddle as there are water hazards on 16 of the 18 holes and a total of 107 bunkers throughout. With a rating of 75.2 and a slope of 148, the Champion Course is highlighted by the treacherous three-hole gauntlet known as “The Bear Trap”. Coming out as a part of the Nicklaus redesign, “The Bear Trap” has been dubbed by USA Today as “one of the toughest stretches in golf.”

The forecast for Palm Beach Gardens looks promising this weekend with two days of warm temperatures predicted. Friday holds a slight chance of rain showers, but temperatures will range into the mid-70s during the opening round. Saturday’s temperatures are only expected to hit the upper-60s, but there is virtually no chance of rain and has tabbed it as “excellent” on the golf index.

With five tournaments completed during the 2010 fall campaign, Ohio State has already eclipsed the number of rounds in the 60s from the 2009-10 season. Last year, the Buckeyes carded a total of 11 rounds in the 60s in 10 stroke-play tournaments. This fall, the Scarlet and Gray posted 15 rounds in the 60s to go along with a tournament title at the Marshall Invitational and a runner-up finish at the Windon Memorial Classic. 

Ohio State will swing into action again Feb. 20-22 at the Puerto Rico Classic in Rio Grande, P.R.