The Linger Longer Invitational returns to Reynolds Lake Oconee for the 13th time, with No. 4-ranked Alabama and four teams from the state, including four-time tournament champion Georgia, in the 16-team field.
Alabama, a three-time Linger Longer champion, is led by Davis Riley, the country’s No. 1 player in the most recent Golfstat national ranking. He is one of two highly-ranked individuals in the field, with No. 13 Kyle Mueller of Michigan, an Athens resident, also competing.
Both Riley and Mueller recorded top-10 finishes last year at Great Waters, as did Augusta’s Broc Everett and Middle Tennessee’s Marcus Byrd of Dunwoody, whose teams are again in the field.
This year’s tournament will be played March 18th-20th, 2018 on the Jack Nicklaus-designed Great Waters course, which is scheduled to be completely renovated beginning in June. The course has hosted a number of top events, including the national PGA Club Professional Championship, the Georgia Open, Georgia Amateur and a professional match play event that was the predecessor of the current World Golf Championship match play tournament.
Great Waters is one of the state’s most visually appealing layouts, with nine of the last 10 holes playing along Lake Oconee. The back nine includes some exceptional waterfront holes, most notably the short, par-4 11th and a pair of scenic par 3s along and over the lake.
Middle Tennessee is among the highest-ranked teams in the field behind Alabama, with Penn State, Kennesaw State, Virginia, Georgia, Ohio State and Michigan among the main challengers to the Crimson Tide. Augusta and Mercer round out the list of Georgia schools competing in the tournament.
Baylor won last year’s tournament by 15 strokes over Virginia with a 33=under total of 831. Georgia was third behind Baylor at 853, with Troy fourth at 854 and Alabama fifth at 857. The Nos. 2 through 5 teams from last year are all back in the field this month.
Alabama enjoyed an outstanding fall season with three wins, including a tie for first in the Carpet Capital event hosted by Georgia Tech. The team has not played quite as well in its early spring starts but remains the Linger Longer favorite and likely one of the teams to beat in the NCAA Championship.
Georgia is looking to rebound after a disappointing fall showing, with the Bulldogs a close second in their most recent tournament on Hilton Head Island. TCU edged the Bulldogs by one shot at Wexford Plantation, with Georgia 23 strokes ahead of the third-place team.
The Bulldogs were led in that tournament by freshman Davis Thompson, son of former Georgia golf team member Todd Thompson, now the Tournament Director for the PGA Tour RSM Classic at Sea Island GC.
Thompson was second at Hilton Head with an 8-under 208 total, with the Bulldogs shooting 10-under 854 as a team. Sophomore Spencer Ralston of Gainesville, the team’s top player in the fall, was third at Hilton Head at 210 highlighted by a second round 66.
Senior Zach Healy of Peachtree Corners was 13th at 218, his second straight top-15 finish this spring, with junior David Mackey of Bogart tying for 14th at 219. Georgia has started the same lineup in each of its first two spring tournaments, with sophomore Trevor Phillips leading the team with a tie for seventh in the 2018 opener in Puerto Rico.
Augusta’s Greyson Sigg earned medalist honors in last year’s Linger Longer for the Bulldogs but has since graduated and is playing professionally. Sigg shot 16-under 200 to finish first by five shots.
Kennesaw State is ranked ahead of the Bulldogs by Golfstat after closing out the fall with back-to-back runner-up finishes. The Owls are led by juniors Wyatt Larkin of Morganton and Jake Fendt of Cumming.
Larkin missed almost his entire sophomore last season last year after undergoing back surgery, and in his first tournament back won the Atlanta Open against a field of top club professionals and fellow amateurs. He ended the summer by contending in the Georgia Open and has played well during his junior season with the Owls, including a tie for sixth in the team’s fall opener in Mobile, his third straight finish of sixth or better.
Fendt enjoyed an outstanding fall campaign with three consecutive finishes of seventh or better, including a tie for second in the tournament hosted by the Owls at Pinetree CC. Junior Pablo Torres is off to a strong start this spring with a pair of top 10s in the team’s first two starts of 2018.
Freshman Brady Keran of Canton and junior Adam Morris of Acworth have started both spring matches for Kennesaw, with sophomore Connor Coffee of Peachtree City looking to return to the lineup after starting as a freshman.
The Owls have placed fifth and third in their first two spring starts, both in Alabama.
Augusta comes into the Linger Longer Invitational off a tie for sixth in the Palmetto Invitational in Aiken, S.C., with the Jaguars second at 6-under behind Virginia after 36 holes before falling back the second day in inclement weather conditions.
Everett, who was seventh last year at Great Waters, tied for seventh at Palmetto GC after opening with scores of 66-67. Freshman Alex Shead of Harlem shot 69-70 the first day before also struggling in tough conditions the final round.
Mercer, which co-hosts the Linger Longer with Kennesaw State, has placed fifth in both its spring starts, most recently at Hilton Head’s Wexford Plantation.
The Bears have sported the same starting five in both tournaments, with a trio of Georgia golfers leading the team in each event.
Junior Stanton Schorr of Columbus led the Bears in their season opener in Florida, tying for 10th. He tied for 18th at Wexford Plantation. Sophomore Spencer Ball of Cumming was T18 in Florida and led the team at Hilton Head with a tie for 14th. Senior Brennan Bogdanovich of Cumming tied for 21st in Florida and recorded another top-30 finish at Hilton Head.
Riley, a junior, tops the field individually, scoring his first career win in the fall and placing in the top 10 in all four starts. Alabama senior Lee Hodges has three career wins and is ranked 27th nationally.
Mueller, a three-time first team all-Big 10 selection, has won both tournaments Michigan has competed in this spring in California and Arizona, sharing the latter title with teammate Charlie Pilon. In his four fall starts, Mueller recorded three top 10s and a tie for 12th.
Among the other top players in the field from the state is Duluth’s Charles Huntzinger, a junior at Penn State. Like Mueller, Huntzinger was first-team all-Big 10 last year and scored three top-10 finishes in four fall starts this season. Huntzinger, who won the 2016 Dogwood Invitational at Druid Hills GC, is currently ranked 41st nationally.
Byrd, a junior at Middle Tennessee, is a three-year starter and a former GSGA Junior champions. He led the Raiders in scoring average in the fall, posting a pair of top-10 finishes.
Other Georgia golfers playing for teams in the field include Charlotte junior Tyler Young of Kennesaw and Akron junior Jacob Morgan of LaFayette. Teams from Cincinnati, Chattanooga and UNC-Greensboro are also competing in the Linger Longer Invitational.