Inman: “Let’s go get us the brass ring.”

No one expected them to do it. They defied most’s expectations, but those expectations were a little too low for the men’s golf team who now has the chance to play for a national championship.

The Georgia State Panthers will play in the last tournament of the season, the NCAA Championship, to cap a season that ended with the most tournament wins in the program’s history and a Sun Belt title.

After finishing second in the San Antonio Regional last week, Georgia State returns to the NCAA Championship for the first time since 2007.

“This in a gunfighter’s convention,” head coach Joe Inman said on the upcoming competition. “The fastest guns of the west are there.”

Inman is in his sixth season as the head coach for the team. He led the Panthers’ to the NCAA Regionals in his first season, but they came up just shy of qualifying for the championship finishing in sixth.

Inman said this year’s team is more disciplined and receptive than any other team he’s coached in the past, and that’s allowed them to have all the success they’ve wanted this season.

“They have made the most strides of any team in the way of improvement,” Inman said.

Nealy all the Top 25 teams made it to this year’s championship with the exception of No. 7 Central Florida, No. 11 Virginia and No. 25 New Mexico.

Inman said that these are the team’s that have been in the running all season, and his team needs to have its best tournament of the year to be able to compete.

“We need four guys, preferably five, that are really on their game,” Inman said. “If we have that, we can compete. If not, we’ll get run over.”

The Panthers’ last tournaments have been “good,” according to Inman, but he said his team has yet to play its best tournament.

Georgia State’s postseason began by winning the Sun Belt tournament in their second season in the conference.

Tyler Gruca continued his late season dominance finishing 1-under-par at Regionals to finish third among all the competitors and lead his team to the championship. It was the best individual finish in regionals in the program’s history.

“I have a lot of confidence in my game right now,” Gruca said. “I kind of reflected upon the [tournaments] where I didn’t finish that great, tried to figure out what I did well and what I didn’t do well, and tried to keep that in mind in this past tournament.”

Gruca has a chance to compete for a national title in his last tournament as a Panther, something he said he really never thought he would get the opportunity to do.

“It’s a great way to go out in style,” Gruca said.

Junior Davin White is also going into this week’s championship coming off a strong outing.

White, who had two top 10 finishes going into regionals, finished ninth among all the golfers at regionals. He shot 3-under, 69, the best score among the team and second-best in the tournament that day.

He said he knew he had to play a solid round to keep his team in contention to play for a championship because other teams were closing in, but he was comfortable with the pressure.

“We play for pressure situations,” White said. “That’s what all of us our playing for—to be in that situation and prove that we’ve got the talent to be there.”

The Panthers may have to do a little more convincing to their opponents that they do belong there. However, sophomore Jonathan Grey said the team coming in under the radar should be a positive for the Panthers.

“Nobody’s got any expectations on us,” he said, “so we don’t really have some of the pressure with some of the teams like UGA and Alabma.”

Grey struggled at regionals finishing 12-over, but the past two season’s Grey has led the team with 11 top 5 finishes in the past two seasons and had the lowest stroke average for the team just over 72.

Georgia comes into the championship the winner of the San Antonio region, and they will try to win their first men’s golf championship since 2005.

Alabama comes out this week trying to defend last year’s title after winning the Auburn Regional shooting an astounding 11-under-par.

As the Panthers go out to compete for the championship, Inman said he will tell his guys that, in the end, it is not life or death, and if they just focus like they have all season long, they could prove themselves to be the dangerous team he knows them to be.

“Let’s go get us the brass ring,” Inman said his final message to the team will be.

The NCAA Championship begins Friday, May 23 and extends to Wednesday, May 28, in Huntington, Kansas.

The championship consists of 30 teams and six individuals that will play 54 holes. Then, the top eight teams advance to match play for the national championship, which will be broadcasted on the Golf Channel.

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