After a rare season in which both Georgia and Georgia Tech failed to qualify for the NCAA Championship, the state’s two most prominent golf programs go into 2017-18 with deep rosters but no individuals comparable to past standouts for both squads.
Kennesaw State was the lone team from Georgia to make it to the NCAA Championship last year, and the Owls look to contend for a spot at nationals again this season with a largely veteran squad.
The Bulldogs failed to score a victory in 2016-17, placing second twice and third twice, but not playing especially well in either the SEC Championship or NCAA Regionals.
Augusta’s Greyson Sigg, last season’s top player, has graduated, but the Bulldogs return six players who saw significant action last year, with as many as nine members of the team competing seriously for playing time.
Gainesville’s Spencer Ralston, who finished 12th or better five times as a freshman, is the team’s top returning player. Griffin junior Tye Waller had three top 10s and was the team’s No. 3 player last year, but was not in the six-man lineup for the Bulldogs’ fall opener.
Georgia was seventh in the 8-team Carmel Cup at Pebble Beach, with the team getting respectable efforts from Ralston, senior Zach Healy and freshman Davis Thompson. Ralston tied for 23rd at 3-under 213, with Thompson T20 at 212 with a second round 68 and Healy breaking par all three rounds to tie for 15th at 6-under 210.
Healy, from Peachtree Corners, is looking to bounce back after enjoying a successful sophomore season before seeing limited action last spring. Thompson is the son of former Georgia golf team captain Todd Thompson.
Also in the starting lineup for Georgia’s opener were sophomores Trevor Phillips and Will Chandler and junior David Mackey, all of whom saw action last season but did not make major contributions. Atlanta junior Jack Larkin Jr., whose father is also a former Bulldog golfer, also played last year, and is competing for a spot in the lineup along with freshman John Hilliard Catanzaro, who advanced to match play in the recent U.S. Amateur.
The Bulldogs spend the fall on the West Coast and Midwest and begin the spring with events in Puerto Rico and Mexico before playing three of their last four tournaments in the state, including the one day Southern Intercollegiate at Athens CC and the annual Linger Longer Invitational at Great Waters on Lake Oconee.
The Yellow Jackets return six of their top seven players from 2016-17, along with two seniors who played sparingly. Tech struggled last Fall, including both tournaments it hosts annually, but came back with a strong spring that included three straight runner-up finishes before a disappointing showing in the ACC Championship and a sixth in the team’s NCAA Regional, one spot away from earning an NCAA berth.
Luke Schniederjans of Powder Springs made an impressive debut, winning last year’s Carpet Capital at The Farm in his first tournament as a freshman. He won again in the spring in Puerto Rico and was third in the team’s next event at Florida State. But he was outside the top 25 in half his starts, closing out the spring with a second round 62 at Regionals but playing the other two rounds in 8-over to tie for 12th.
Schniederjans was in the lineup for all 10 of Tech’s tournaments last season along with three-year starter James Clark of Columbus and Andy Ogletree, a freshman last season. Clark was among the team’s most consistent performers and was second in scoring average behind Schniederjans, with Ogletree also playing steady golf with seven top-25 finishes.
Fellow freshman Tyler Strafaci also played well last season, winning Tech’s tournament in the Tampa area and placing third on the team in scoring average.
After being a full-time starter as a freshman and sophomore, Chris Petefish started six of 10 events as a junior with just one top-25 showing. Fellow seniors Jacob Joiner of Leesburg and Michael Pisciotta of Alpharetta spent most of their junior seasons on the sidelines, with Joiner not cracking the team’s starting lineup after playing full time as a junior with a victory in the Carpet Capital. Junior Tyler Joiner, Jacob’s younger brother, also saw action last season.
Also looking to break into the lineup is freshman Noah Norton, who made it to match play in the U.S. Amateur.
The Yellow Jackets host two events in the Fall – the season-opening Carpet Capital Sept. 8-10 and the Golf Club of Georgia Collegiate Oct. 20-22. The spring schedule opens with events in Hawaii and Puerto Rico, the latter the only one Tech and Georgia will be in the same field all season.
The Owls collected three titles last season, including their tournament at Pinetree and the Atlantic Sun Championship, and also scored three runner-up finishes, one in their NCAA Regional. Two starters, including Cumming’s Chris Guglielmo, were seniors, but the team returns three full-time starters along with Morganton’s Wyatt Larkin, who missed all but the team’s first two events of the fall due to a back injury.
Larkin, a redshirt junior, was in the top 10 in both his starts before being sidelined, and in his first event back this summer after nine months of inaction, won the Georgia PGA’s Atlanta Open. He ended the summer with a tie for fifth in the Georgia Open, sharing low amateur honors.
The team’s returning starters are sophomore Connor Coffee of Peachtree City and juniors Jake Fendt of Cumming and Pablo Torres. Coffee and Fendt both collected individual victories among four top 10s on the season, with Fendt leading the team in scoring average as a sophomore after a strong freshman effort. Like Fendt. Torres is a two-year starter.
Adam Morris, who played his high school golf locally at North Cobb Christian, has transferred to Kennesaw State after two seasons at Dalton State, and is looking to earn a spot in the starting lineup. Morris lost in a playoff in the 2016 Atlanta Open.
The Owls open their fall schedule in the Carpet Capital and host their annual event at Pinetree Oct. 23-24. They play three events in the state in the spring, including the Linger Longer at Lake Oconee and the Atlantic Sun Championship at the Legends at Chateau Elan.
The Panthers won the Sun Belt Championship in match play after placing third in the stroke play portion of the conference tournament, capping a season which included a sizeable number of fifth place finishes.
The team returns four of its top five players, with Lexington’s Nathan Mallonee the lone graduation loss. Brothers Alex and Max Herrmann are back for their senior seasons and are both three-year starters, with one win each in their careers. Alex scored his victory last season and led the team in scoring average.
Junior Nick Budd of Woodstock, a two-year starter, picked up his first win last season and was third on the team in scoring average behind Alex Herrmann and Mallonee. Fellow junior Nathan Williams of Gainesville moved into the starting lineup on a full-time basis last year and contributed a key win in the Panthers’ Sun Belt match play finals triumph over Georgia Southern.
Several players are competing to take over Mallonee’s spot in the starting lineup.
The Panthers host their annual fall event at Berkeley Hills Oct, 16-17, and are also considered the home team for a tournament in Scottsdale Ariz., Sept. 22-24.
With veteran head coach Joe Inman having been promoted to Georgia State’s Director of Golf, former Kennesaw State golfer Chad Wilson is taking over as the team’s head coach. Wilson was the interim coach at Coastal Carolina last season.
With their top four players returning from last season, the Eagles look for better results after a 2016-17 showing highlighted by runner-up finishers in the tournament they host and the Sun Belt Championship, where Southern lost in the finals to Georgia State.
Junior Steven Fisk of Stockbridge led the team in scoring average in his second year as a starter and won the Sun Belt individual title in a playoff over teammate over Jake Storey, one of Fisk’s seven top-20 finishes.
Storey, one of the team’s two seniors, also scored a victory last season and was named the Sun Belt Player of the Year, finishing just behind Fisk in scoring average. Fellow senior Archer Price has been a steady performer for the Eagles in his three seasons as a starter.
Also back is Cumming’s Brett Barron, who started as a freshman and tied the school’s 18-hole scoring record with a 63 at the Furman golf course, placing fifth in the event.
Sophomores Luukas Alakulppi of Valdosta and Alexander DeRosa of Atlanta both saw limited action as freshman, and will look to move into the regular lineup this season along with freshman Jacob Bayer of Lawrenceville, who won the Georgia PGA tournament at Berkeley Hills while still a high school golfer.
Georgia Southern will play in Georgia State’s event at Berkeley Hills Oct, 16-17, and will host the Schenkel Invitational at Forest Heights March 16-18.
The Jaguars narrowly missed qualifying for the NCAA Championship last spring, placing sixth in its Regional, with the top five advancing to nationals. Three starters from that team are gone, including local resident Emmanuel Kountakis, the lone Georgian to see significant action for the Jaguars in recent seasons.
Senior Broc Everett, the team’s top player in 2016-17, has been a full-time starter the past two seasons, and recorded six top-10 finishes as a junior. The only other returning starter is sophomore Gustav Andersson.
Among the players looking to fill the vacant spots in the starting lineup is junior transfer Adam Walden of Wrens, a starter last season at Savannah State, where he won four tournaments as a sophomore.
The other Augusta area member of the team is freshman Alex Shead of Appling, who won an American Junior Golf Association tournament in Augusta in 2016 hosted by former Jaguar and current PGA Tour player Vaughn Taylor. Shead is one of four freshmen on the Jags’ eight-man roster.
Augusta’s fall schedule includes two events in the state – Sept. 16-17 at Berkeley Hills and Oct, 30-31 at Crosswinds in Savannah. The Jaguars will play at Great Waters on Lake Oconee in the spring, along with the annual event they host at Forest Hills March 30-Augusta 1, the weekend before the Masters.
The Bears finished higher than fifth in just one tournament last season, and lost their best player, McDonough’s Justin Connelly, who transferred to Georgia College as a graduate transfer. Connelly recorded five top 10s, more than the rest of his teammates combined.
Five of the team’s top six players were scheduled to return this season, including a trio of Georgia golfers who will all be juniors. Stanton Schorr of Columbus was second in scoring average behind Connelly, with Hayes Rule of Eatonton and Brennan Bogdanovich of Cumming also starting in almost every event as sophomores.
Also scheduled to return were senior Jerry Ren, a three-year starter, and sophomore Kiko Rosete, who had the best showing in a tournament by a Mercer golfer other than Connelly.
Mercer’s fall schedule includes one event in Georgia in a tournament hosted by Kennesaw State at Pinetree Oct. 23-24.