With the absence of Campbell University, which won six of seven events through 2018 including last year’s men’s and women’s championships, the Golfweek Program Challenge this year will crown new champions from a highly competitive field. The men’s teams from Stephen F. Austin State (T-2 in 2018), Jacksonville State (T-2 in 2018) and Gardner-Webb (T-4 in 2018) return in hopes of claiming the 2019 crown. They’ll face a strong challenge from Jacksonville University, who enter this week’s play as the highest-ranked men’s team in the competition (65th out of 298 Division I programs, according to Golfstat).
On the women’s side, Delaware, Jacksonville State and Presbyterian return as the top finishing programs from the 2018 Program Challenge. They’re expected to face a strong test from Marshall, the highest-ranked women’s team in the field (98th out of 260 Division I programs, according to Golfstat).
With the exception of Marshall, each aforementioned school has both men’s and women’s teams entered in the 2019 event. Additional schools with dual participation include USC Upstate, Elon, Florida Atlantic, Purdue-Fort Wayne, Stetson and UNC-Wilmington. Florida-Gulf Coast, George Mason and Old Dominion round out the men’s field, while Illinois-Chicago and High Point are competing in the women’s event.
For the first time since the Golfweek Program Challenge’s 2011 inception, the men’s and women’s teams will swap competitive locations – with Caledonia hosting the men and the women’s teams playing at True Blue. Each course has bounced back nicely from any ill effects of Hurricane Dorian making its way past the Southeastern coast last week, but the storm has compressed the schedule a touch with 36 holes now being contested Monday as final-round play remains in place for Tuesday.