MORAGA, Calif. -- When graduation ceremonies take place at Saint Mary's College on Saturday morning, there will be two notable absences among the 635 undergraduate students receiving their degrees.
Senior golfers Ben Geyer and Mac McClung will be on a golf course preparing to lead the Gaels at next week's NCAA Championships, which begin Tuesday at Capital City Club's Crabapple Course in Milton, Ga.
"I had NCAAs marked down on the calendar from the beginning of the year," said McClung. "I wholly expected to make it there, so I hadn't really planned on being at graduation. It would have been cool to be there with all the other seniors. But, for me, achieving our team goal of making it to nationals outweighs everything else."
The seniors, which will each receive degrees in business administration, have played an important role during a time of unprecedented success for Saint Mary's golf.
During Geyer and McClung's career, the Gaels won the first two West Coast Conference championships in program history, qualified for consecutive NCAA regional appearances and won six team tournament titles.
A native of Arbuckle, Calif., Geyer is the 2013 WCC Co-Player of the Year and was on the watch list for the Ben Hogan Award as the nation's top collegiate golfer. He was the 2012 WCC individual champion, earned medalist honors at the Saint Mary's Invitational last fall and advanced to the match play finals at the California State Amateur Championships last summer.
In the summer of 2011, he advanced to the round of 16 at the U.S. Amateur Championships before losing to top-ranked Jordan Spieth.
Geyer is also a 3-time Academic all-WCC honoree and was a Golf Coaches Association of America All-America Scholar-Athlete as a junior.
"I've been lucky to have been given the opportunity to compete at the Division I level, learn from my peers and become a much better golfer," said Geyer. "I've been able to learn things like having the right attitude, practicing the proper way and focusing on solely one sport.
"As a person, I have made a lot of lifelong friends during my time at Saint Mary's. I've been able to meet a variety of different types of people and I've encountered a lof of various situations that have helped me grow as a person and have a better understanding of the world, in general.
"Saint Mary's has been great for me and I wouldn't change my experience here for anything else."
McClung, the team's top finisher at last week's NCAA Pullman Regionals after tying a school record with a 9-under par 63 in the first round, earned all-WCC first team honors twice and joins Geyer among the school's all-time leaders in several categories - scoring average, total rounds, rounds of par or better, top 20, top 10 and top five finishes.
The Fremont, Calif. native recently qualified for U.S. Open Sectionals and, in 2011, played in the U.S. Amateur Championships. In the fall of his junior season, McClung earned medalist honors at the Firestone Intercollegiate.
"Ben and Mac have been the cornerstones of our program the last three years," said SMC head coach Scott Hardy, who began his association with Saint Mary's as a freshman golfer in 1994. "They have helped mold this team into a consistent winner with their hard work, determination and competitive attitudes. They both deserve a lot of credit for where our program is. The foundation they helped establish will help us recruit and compete at a high level for years to come."
Saint Mary's opens play at the NCAA Championships off the 10th tee Tuesday morning at 4:20 a.m. (Pacific). The 21st-seeded Gaels are paired with Southeastern Conference qualifiers South Carolina and Texas A&M. The same three teams will play together in Wednesday's second round, beginning at 9:40 a.m. off the first tee.
The top eight teams in the 54-hole stroke play competition will advance to match play beginning Friday morning. The championship match is scheduled for Sunday morning at 7 a.m.