It's been a while since College of Charleston senior golfer Alex Ellis has played a meaningful round of golf in his home state of Texas.
When Ellis steps onto the first tee box at the Briggs Ranch Golf Club in San Antonio, Texas, it will be only the third time during his four-year collegiate career with the Cougars that he'll have played in his home state.
But this might be the biggest tournament of his career.
Ellis and the College of Charleston men's golf team, which captured the Colonial Athletic Association title two weeks ago, tee off Thursday in the NCAA Southwest Regional Championship. The top five teams from the Southwest Regional and the low individual not on those teams from each of the six regional sites will then move on to the NCAA Men's Golf Championship hosted by Wichita State on May 23-28 at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kansas.
This is the fourth NCAA Regional bid for the Cougars, which earned berths in 2001, 2002 and 2003. The Cougars were last an NCAA tournament finalist in 2001, after finishing fourth at the NCAA Central Regional. They finished 13th out of the 30 teams in the national tournament.
Ellis, who grew up in Austin, just an hour's drive from San Antonio, has played a handful of times at the Briggs Ranch Golf Club. Ellis said he'll have more than a dozen family and friends on hand to watch him play.
"It's exciting to be back in Texas and playing in front of my people I know," Ellis said. "If this is my last college tournament, I can't think of a better place to end it. I've played here a few times, I played in a junior tournament here, and I like the course."
Ellis has qualified for the U.S. Amateur twice and is looking to make it a third consecutive time at this year's tournament at the Atlanta Athletic Club, before turning professional at the end of the summer. He also plans on going through the three stages of Web.com Tour Q-School in the fall of 2015.
Ellis was twice named the CAA Men's Golfer of the Week and leading the Cougars to a conference title in their inaugural year in the conference.
Ellis is the lone senior in the Cougars' lineup and the only golfer on the squad to play in all 11 tournaments of the season. For his career, Ellis has seven top-10 finishes. A year ago, he was named to the All-Southern Conference Team and played in the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional as an individual.
Ellis will be joined this weekend by junior Zach Munroe, sophomores John Jonas and Josh Lorenzetti, and freshman William Rainey. Jonas was tabbed 2014 CAA Men's Golfer of the Year, while head coach Mark McEntire was CAA Coach of the Year.
"It was our goal from the beginning of the year to get there as a team," Ellis said. "Last year, Josh (Lorenzetti) and I went as individuals, but it just wasn't the same. We are excited to go with the entire team and get things under way. There's a lot of young talent and we've definitely got the group to finish in the top five and get to the championships."