JONESBORO, Ark. (5/20/16) – Arkansas State men’s golf student-athletes Tanner Napier and Matthew Cole are set to compete in the U.S. Open sectional qualifying stage June 6 after recently making it through a local qualifying round held at the Hot Springs (Ark.) Country Club.
Napier and Cole will enter the 2016-17 season as a junior and redshirt freshman, respectively, on the A-State squad, which broke the school record for outright tournament championships this year. The A-State pair both shot a 69 at the local qualifying round on May 10, placing them among five players from the Hot Springs site to earn a spot in the sectional qualifying stage. There are 10 sectional qualifying sites in the United States, but the location for Napier and Cole hasn’t been announced at this time.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all to see Matt and Tanner get through local qualifying,” said A-State head coach Mike Hagen, the 2016 Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year. “They are two of the hardest workers on our team, and we are seeing it in the results.”
Local qualifying rounds were held at 111 sites across the country between May 2 and May 19. Each local qualifier consisted of 18 holes with several players, depending on the size of the field, advancing to sectional qualifying. Those players advancing through the sectional stage will earn a spot in the 156-player field at the 116th U.S. Open, set for June 16-19 at the Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club.
A 2016 Second Team All-Sun Belt Conference selection, Napier enjoyed a breakout season as a sophomore. The Paris, Texas, native improved his stroke average from 74.79 as a freshman to 72.42 this year. He was named the Sun Belt Conference Golfer of the Month on March 2 after taking medalist honors at the Loyola Intercollegiate with an 18-under-par 189. Napier went on to complete the season with five top-10 finishes, including tied for fourth place at the Sun Belt Championship.
While Napier is making his second consecutive appearance in the U.S. Open sectional stage, Cole will join him for the first time. Cole, who is from Fayetteville, Ark., joined the A-State team in 2015-16 following a highly successful high school career. He was named the 2014-15 Class 3A Wendy’s Arkansas High School Player of the Year after winning the Arkansas High School Overall Championship. The 2014 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette All-Arkansas Preps Outstanding Golfer of the Year placed among the top 25 players in 10 of 11 tournaments, including three individual titles as a senior.