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HUMBLE – After a strong finish to its fall and an extended period to prepare for its spring slate, the Sam Houston State men’s golf team is primed to begin a challenging upcoming schedule.

The Bearkats, who captured second in their final fall tournament, return to action with the three-day All-American Intercollegiate presented by Coca-Cola beginning Friday at the par-72, 7,096-yard, Golf Club of Houston.

The 54-hole tournament features 18 holes each day and tees off at 9 a.m., with Sam Houston getting underway at 9:08 a.m. on Friday. Live scoring will also be available via GolfStat.com.

“We’ve had a month to prepare which is longer than normal,” head coach Brandt Kieschnick said. “We’ve had 3 ½ weeks of qualifying. We’ve been able to get all the winter rust off our game. I feel really good about the team that’s going to Houston.”

Much like its five-tournament fall slate, Sam Houston has put together another demanding spring schedule beginning this weekend. The 18-team field features top-ranked Vanderbilt alongside fellow Southeastern Conference members No. 21 Auburn and No. 38 South Carolina.

“When we went to Hawaii in the fall, it was like an NCAA Regional field,” Kieschnick said. “This week is like a national championship field. We’re kind of in the middle of a very top-tier schedule. If we do what we do and we play well, we’ll have a chance to win the big ones. It’s huge for us to improve our national ranking. We want to compete against the best.”

The Kats have been no stranger to the Golf Club of Houston and this weekend’s event. Two years ago, an eventual NCAA-bound Sam Houston squad finished runner-up, trailing only sixth-ranked South Carolina, thanks to firing a 19-under during the final two rounds.

“We play really well on good golf courses,” Kieschnick said. “They host a PGA golf tournament there. We’re just going to follow that game plan. We’ve had (Andrew) Ertel and Jake (McCrory) who have played there the last two years. We feel like we have proven we can play with anybody.”

In addition to its recent history of success at the venue, Sam Houston also raced to the finish line in the fall. The Bearkats shot 11-under during their final four rounds of the semester and saved their best performance for last, besting No. 22 Arizona State and No. 24 Missouri at the Warrior Princeville Makai Invitational in Princeville, Hawaii.

“We shoot under par about 44 percent of the time,” Kieschnick said. “That’s big for us because if we do that in the first round, we’ll probably do that in the third round. That’s just confidence in our game plan and our mindset. Our team scoring average in the fall was 288.8. We almost set a school record with a new team. I think we’re trending really well.”

Following this weekend, Sam Houston will head to Lafayette, La., for the Louisiana Classic before heading cross country for the Kingsmill Intercollegiate in Williamsburg, Va. The Kats play their final regular-season tournament in Bastrop at the Jim West Intercollegiate from April 10-11.