By Samuel T.O. Branch, Athletic Communications Post-Graduate Assistant

WILMINGTON, North Carolina - The UNCW men's golf team has high hopes for this weekend's Colonial Athletic Association Championships in Wilmington, Dela., after claiming the crown in 2011.

The tournament gets under way Friday at 9 a.m. with a split-tee start on the South Course at the Wilmington Country Club. The second and third rounds take place Saturday and Sunday, also beginning at 9 a.m.

The Seahawks brought home the 2011 title by 10 strokes over VCU with a 294-293-295=882 team score at Pinehurst No. 8. Senior Josh Brock won the individual title as the only player in the tournament who shot under par after carding a 2-under par 214 total (72-71-71=214).

Despite losing Brock, the 2011 CAA Player-of-the-Year, and Michael Taylor from last year's tournament lineup, UNCW maintains lofty expectations for this week's championships.

"We're going up there to defend our title," said Head Coach Matt Clark. "We've got a great chance to go up there and win."

Winning the conference tournament would nail down a berth into the NCAA Regionals for the third consecutive year after the Seahawks earned an at-large selection in 2010 and the CAA's automatic league bid last season.

"UNCW won back-to-back championships seven years ago and we've got a great opportunity to do the same thing," added Clark. "With two straight NCAA bids and winning the CAA last season, these guys would love to start laying the groundwork to building a dynasty like the men's swimming program."

Junior Thomas Bass and sophomore Payne McLeod anchor the Seahawks' five-man lineup at the championships. Both players enter with a 73.1 stroke average on the season. The tandem has combined for five top-10 finishes.

Bass recorded a 5-over-par (74-74-73=221) scorecard at the 2011 conference tournament, tying for seventh overall. As a freshman, McLeod finished his CAA tourney debut in a tie for ninth with an 8-over score (75-73-76=224).

Stefan Brewer joins Bass and McLeod with prior championship experience after competing in 2010 and finishing tied for 14th.

Sophomores Ryan Nagy and freshman Patrick Sawrey are competing in the league championship for the first time. Brewer and Nagy begin the tournament with stroke averages of 75.7 and 75.8, respectively, while Sawrey maintains a 76.7 average.

The South Course at the Wilmington Country Club will be northern-most location for the CAA Championships since the men's golf tournament began in 1984. The 7,043 yard course also marks the longest par-71 course for the annual event.