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sports briefs

sports briefs

Baylor tennis teams both picked in top 3 of Big 12 poll

The Big 12 conference released its men’s and women’s tennis preseason polls on Tuesday and Baylor’s teams are picked near the top of the standings.

The Baylor women received one first-place vote and were picked third by the conference’s head coaches. Baylor is coming off a COVID-19 shortened season in 2020 when the Bears collected a 10-2 overall record and a 2-0 mark in Big 12 play. Most of the contributing members of last year’s roster are back with four freshmen added to the mix for 2021.

Texas received seven of the 10 first-place votes in the poll and were projected the regular-season champion.

Oklahoma State finished second in the poll, which included two first-place votes, and Baylor finished third.

The Baylor men’s tennis was picked to finish second in the Big 12. The Bears received two first-place votes and sit just two points behind preseason favorite TCU. Oklahoma State, Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech round out the poll, in that order.

Both teams open the season later this week. The Baylor men host Lamar and Abilene Christian on Friday, while the Baylor women will play Tyler Junior College and Prairie View A&M on Saturday.

Masters plans for a limited number of spectators

Some volume is returning to the Masters, just maybe not the head-turning roars.

Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley said Tuesday the club intends to allow a limited number of spectators for the Masters on April 8-11, provided it can be done safely amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In other areas, the Masters in April will be a lot like the last one in November. Ridley said it will be conducted with similar health and safety standards. Those standards included mandatory testing for the coronavirus and masks being worn to prevent its spread.

Ridley said holding the Masters with only essential personnel made the club confident in its ability to stage a major championship with limited fans.

“Nothing is, or will be, more important than the well-being of all involved,” Ridley said. “While we are disappointed that we will be unable to accommodate a full complement of patrons this year, we will continue our efforts to ensure that all who purchased tickets from Augusta National will have access in 2022, provided conditions improve.”

The Masters was played Nov. 12-15 — the first time in the autumn since it began in 1934 — because of the pandemic that forced golf to reconfigure its major championship season and led to the cancellation of the British Open.

Ridley did not indicate how many spectators will be allowed. The Masters does not publicize how many tickets it sells or how many people typically are on the grounds. It has been estimated at roughly 40,000, though it’s far easier to judge the attendance in volume decibels.

The roars are a big part of what makes the Masters, and they were missing in November when Dustin Johnson set the scoring record at 20-under 268 to win by five shots for his first green jacket.

“From playing it in November with no fans — not that I didn’t know this — but I didn’t give enough credit to how much the fans and the whole atmosphere builds and makes the Masters,” Augusta native Charles Howell III said. “With that said, any fans we get brings us closer back to the Masters. And so I was really excited to hear that.”

The club is so confident that Ridley also said the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, which was canceled last year after its debut in 2019, and the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals, will be held with a small number of spectators.

Kentucky basketball walk-on, pitcher Ben Jordan dies at 22

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky says Ben Jordan, a right-handed pitcher who played last season on the men’s basketball team because of a shortage of players, has died. He was 22 years old.

The school announced Jordan’s death on Monday in a release and a Kentucky baseball spokesman said coach Nick Mingione has spoken with the player’s family. The school release did not specify a cause of death.

Mingione said in a release Tuesday that the program was devastated to learn of Jordan’s passing.

“There are no words to express the shock and heartache our team is feeling with the loss of Ben,” the coach said. “He was an absolute joy to coach and be around. ... We are all hurting and will find a way carry Ben’s legacy forward and keep him in our heart always.”

The 6-foot-9, 250-pound Jordan joined Kentucky’s basketball team last season when it lacked enough players for practice.

He played just one minute in two games, but practicing against 6-11 Nick Richards was cited in helping Richards become a first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection by The Associated Press and coaches.

“Ben impacted our team last season in so many ways with his kind heart, his big smile and his wonderful personality,” coach John Calipari said in a release. “He cared so deeply about this place and it meant so much to him to be a part of this team.”

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