The Ball State men’s golf team will compete in its first NCAA Championship since 1986 Tuesday morning.

The Cardinals arrived in Atlanta Sunday, and have been practicing at the Capital City Club Crabapple Course for the past couple days, as one of 30 teams in Division I golf still vying for a national championship.

The team will play the same five golfers that captured fifth place in a playoff hole to advance out of the Pullham Regional. Seniors Joe Gasser, Tony Lazzara and Alex Stinson, junior Tyler Merkel and sophomore transfer McCormick Clouser will take on the par-70, 7,319-yard course.

The Cardinals enter the field as the last seed at No. 30, and don’t believe many give them a chance to exceed expectations.

“I think us five and the coaches expected us to advance [through Regionals},” Merkel said.

The underdog role doesn’t bother the Cardinals though. And after teeing off against staunch competition all year, the Cardinals even carry some confidence.

“It’s not something new to us,” Merkel said. “It’s kind of something we enjoy, when somebody brushes us off, and doesn’t give us the attention we deserve. It puts a fire in your belly, and lets you go up to the first tee with something to prove.”

The confidence has manifested into excitement for Ball State.

“This is what we prepare for, this is why we do morning weights, or have tough practices to see where we stand on the big stage against not only the best teams, but the best amateurs in the world,” Stinson said. “Golf is such a game where if we get hot at the right time, and we play the golf we know how to play, we just see where it falls, and hopefully we have something to play for in the last round.”

The Cardinals are grouped with Texas Tech and Coastal Carolina for the first two rounds. After those two rounds, pairings will be redrawn, and a round of stroke play will narrow the field down to the top eight teams.

Those eight teams will then compete in match play to determine the national champion.

Gasser will tee off first for Ball State at 8:40 a.m., and his teammates will follow in 10 minute intervals.