A statement was made by the little guys at last week's Central Regional of the NCAA men's golf tournament.
The team from Augusta State, known more for the Georgia town in which it is located rather than the level at which it plays, crushed the field by nine shots.
The individual champion in South Bend, Ind., was Korey Mahoney, a junior whose only Division I scholarship offer coming out of high school in East Lansing, Mich., was from Eastern Michigan.
This week, when the top 30 teams and six lowest-scoring individuals from the three regional sites converge on prestigious Caves Valley in Owings Mills for the 2005 NCAA men's championships, Augusta State and Eastern Michigan's Mahoney will again be looking to prove that there is no such thing as an underdog.
The event begins tomorrow and runs through Saturday.
"I'm just going to go out and play golf and have some fun," said Mahoney, the first Eastern Michigan player to get this far in 20 years and only the third in school history. "I know I can play with those guys. It's pretty much all mental. In the end, you see if the numbers add up."
While Mahoney will try to follow reigning U.S. Amateur champion Ryan Moore of Nevada-Las Vegas as the NCAA's individual champion, Augusta State might be considered one of the teams to beat, along with perennial powers Oklahoma State, UNLV and Arizona State.
The Jaguars' performance in the Central Regional was their third victory in the past four events they've played, and their 10th in the past two years.
"That gives us a lot of confidence," said third-year coach Josh Gregory, 30, a former North Carolina State assistant who inherited a program that had already gone to six NCAA championships. He has taken it to two more, finishing seventh overall in 2003. "I don't look at us as one of the have-nots."
The landscape has changed greatly in the 31 years since Mike Holder took over at Oklahoma State.
"The selfish part of me would like it as it was when there were only four or five schools capable of winning it," said Holder, whose Cowboys have won eight of the school's nine overall titles in men's golf. "But it's much healthier now. A lot of schools realize the benefit of having a good golf program."
It helps that no school, regardless of its enrollment or endowment, is allowed more than 4 1/2 scholarships per golf team.
"Nobody can monopolize the good players," said Georgia State coach Matt Clark, 29, a former Alabama assistant and player whose Bulldogs qualified for the second straight year. "I can let all the big schools find their players and then I can see what's left. There are a lot of good players out there."
Not that college golf, in general, and the NCAA championships in particular, is a launching pad for guaranteed success in the professional ranks. Of the 18 players who have won NCAA championships in the past 20 years, only a third have become recognizable names on the PGA Tour.
For each Phil Mickelson, who won three times in four years at Arizona State, and Tiger Woods, who turned pro shortly after winning the title as a sophomore at Stanford in 1996, there are many more players who have faded into obscurity or are still working their way out.
Holder doesn't think the college game is a breeding ground for pro success because there are too many players chasing the same dream, with only 125 exempt spots on the PGA Tour and another 125 on the Nationwide Tour, with the odds that most college players become club pros and insurance salesmen rather than seven-figure superstars.
"I liken it to the freeways around Atlanta and Los Angeles," Holder said. "There are a lot more cars chasing a very small space than there used to be; a lot less space than what's needed. The talent is spread out over a lot of programs."
Given that teams need only five players - four if you throw out the highest score, which is the typical format at most tournaments, including the NCAAs - it doesn't take much to get a smaller program on a level playing field with the bigger ones.
At a school such as Augusta State, where all but the men's and women's golf programs are Division II, Gregory has put together a team made up of foreigners who might be familiar with a little golf club down the street and local players who will get more of an opportunity than they would at Georgia or Georgia Tech.
Asked if name recognition of the town helps attract talent, Gregory said, "It might help you get your foot in the door because everyone knows about the Masters and the green jacket, but it's not going to help you close the deal. If you work hard in recruiting, you can compete - and win."
What: NCAA men's golf championships
Where: Caves Valley Golf Club, Owings Mills
When: Tomorrow through Saturday
Format: 30 teams (five players each, four best scores are used) competing for team titles, plus six other players whose schools have been eliminated are competing for individual titles.
Schools competing: Alabama, Arizona, Arizona State, Arkansas, Augusta State, Brigham Young, Coastal Carolina, Duke, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma State, Purdue, San Diego State, Southern Methodist, Southern California, Stanford, Tennessee, Texas, Texas A&M, Tulsa, UCLA, UNLV, Wake Forest, Washington.
Tickets: Available through Loyola College (410-617-2547). Prices: $36 for the week; $12 for individual-day tickets tomorrow, Thursday and Friday; $15 for individual-day tickets Saturday. Parking is $5.