Georgia’s Division 1 college golf teams begin their Spring schedules this month, with Georgia Tech getting an early start in Hawaii Feb. 4-6.
Kennesaw State also opens its Spring schedule in Hawaii Feb. 16-18, and Georgia opens in Puerto Rico Feb. 21-23, with Georgia Tech also in that field. Georgia Southern plays its first tournament Feb. 20-21 in Gainesville, Fla., with Georgia State and Mercer playing their first events of 2016 in Mobile Feb. 22-23. Augusta is the last of the seven D-1 teams to begin its 2016 schedule, traveling to California for a tournament Feb. 29-March 1.
The NCAA Regionals will be played May 5-7 at six sites, with the championship event set for May 27-June 1 in Eugene, Ore.
Georgia was the top-ranked team among the state schools, ending the Fall season as the No. 9 team in the country according to Golfstat. The Bulldogs reached the semifinals of the 2015 NCAA Championship, losing to eventual champion LSU. Georgia avenged that loss to the Tigers in the inaugural East Lake Cup last Fall, but lost in the title match to Illinois.
The Bulldogs also placed second in two of their four stroke play tournaments in the Fall, including one without Clarkesville senior Lee McCoy, the team’s No. 1 player, who was competing with the U.S. Walker Cup team. The Bulldogs finished as runners-up in their season-opening event at Pebble Beach without McCoy, and also were second in their Fall finale in Hawaii.
Augusta junior Greyson Sigg helped fill in for McCoy at Pebble Beach, earning medalist honors in a playoff. Peachtree Corners sophomore Zach Healy was medalist in Hawaii, with McCoy finishing fifth. The Bulldogs were fourth and sixth in their other two Fall starts, with McCoy placing third and Sigg fourth in Oregon.
McCoy finished the Fall ranked 20th individually in the country by Golfstat, with Sigg 37th and Healy 65th. Valdosta senior Sepp Straka and junior Jaime Lopez Rivarola were the team’s other two primary starters, with Straka 10th in the opener at Pebble Beach. Freshman Jack Larkin of Atlanta and David Mackey of Bogart also made appearances in the starting lineup during the Fall, with coach Chris Haack looking for more production from the Nos. 4 and 5 players. Straka is one of four returning starters from last year’s NCAA semifinalists.
After opening events in Puerto Rico and Mexico, the Bulldogs play their next four events in Georgia, beginning with the Southern Intercollegiate at Athens CC March 14. The annual Linger Longer Invitational is scheduled for Reynolds Plantation March 20-22, with Georgia competing in the Augusta Invitational April 2-3 at Forest Hills. The SEC Championship returns to Sea Island GC April 15-17.
Georgia Tech graduated four-year starters Ollie Schniederjans and Albers Albertson, and is playing this year without a dominant player in the lineup for the first time in seemingly forever.
Leesburg sophomore Jacob Joiner has emerged as the Yellow Jackets’ top player, opening the Fall with an individual victory in the Carpet Capital Collegiate at The Farm outside Dalton. Joiner added two other top-15 finishes in four Fall starts, and was ranked 44th nationally by Golfstat.
Joiner was joined in the starting lineup in all four of Tech’s Fall tournaments by Columbus sophomore James Clark, fellow sophomore Chris Petefish and junior Vincent Whaley. Acworth junior Michael Hines made three starts on a team that does not have a senior on the roster, with four sophomores and a freshman among the top seven players.
A third place finish by Whaley in Nashville and a tie for 12th by Clark in the Carpet Capital were the only strong showings by a Tech golfer other than Joiner, with the Jackets placing fifth, seventh, fifth and 10th in their four Fall tournaments. Both fifth place finishes came in events hosted by Georgia Tech – the Carpet Capital and the U.S. Collegiate Championship at Golf Club of Georgia. Joiner tied for 15th in the USCC, the only player on the team to finish higher than 25th.
Alpharetta sophomore Michael Pisciotta and freshman Tyler Joiner, Jacob’s youner brother, both made two fall starts and will be looking to move into the lineup on a regular basis along with Hines.
The Yellow Jackets, ranked 29th entering 2016, will do plenty of traveling this Spring, opening with tournaments in Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Tech also plays in Palm City, Fla., at the Cliffs in South Carolina and in an event hosted by Princeton before competing in the ACC Championship April 22-24 in North Carolina.
Augusta is 31st after a Fall season that included a victory in a tournament hosted by North Carolina State and third place finishes at Shoal Creek in Birmingham and Kiawah Island.
Senior Robin Petersson keyed the two victories, earning medalist honors in both events. He tied for third at Shoal Creek and finished the Fall ranked 48th in the country. The Jaguars also had top 10 finishes by sophomore Broc Everett (fourth at NC State) and junior Jake Marriott (T9 in Birmingham), but neither senior Maverick Antcliff nor junior transfer Emmanuel Kountakis of Augusta played particularly well. Kountakis, a two-year starter at Mercer, had two respectable showings, but struggled in other events.
Mitch Krywulycz, a starter on both Augusta national championship teams in 2010 and ’11, has joined the golf staff as an assistant for both the men’s and women’s teams. Kryrwulycz has been playing professionally since 2011, competing on the LatinoAmerica Tour the past two years.
The Jaguars play a busy Spring schedule, sticking mostly close to home after their season opener other than an event in Oklahoma. Augusta plays at historic Palmetto GC in Aiken, S.C., March 7-8, in the Southern Intercollegiate at Athens CC March 14 and the annual Linger Longer Invitational at Reynolds Plantation March 20-22. The annual Augusta Invitational will be played at Forest Hills April 2-3, with the Jaguars playing in the MEAC Championship at Crosswinds in Savannah April 21-23.
Georgia Southern opened last Fall with a win at the Ocean Course on Kiawah Island and followed with consecutive runner-up finishes in the Sun Belt Preview in Destin and a tournament in Mexico. The Eagles were seventh and sixth in their next two Fall starts and were ranked 55th entering 2016.
The Eagles got a strong Fall from Stockbridge freshman Steven Fisk, who debuted with a fourth place finish at Kiawah and was the team’s low scorer in three of their final four tournaments, scoring top-10 finishes in each of the three. Fisk is ranked 104th nationally.
Junior college transfer Casey O’Toole also made a major contribution in his early appearances with the Eagles, placing second at Kiawah and finishing 13th and sixth in his next two starts. Sophomores Jake Storey and Archer Price were both in the starting lineup in all five Fall tournaments and had several strong showings, with Griffin senior Henry Mabbett contributing a tie for 21st in Destin and a T11 in Cabo.
The Eagles will not venture far from home this Spring, with tournaments in Gainesville, Fla., Aiken, S.C., Tallahassee, Fla., and Spartanburg, S.C., followed by the Sun Belt Championship April 24-27 in Destin. The annual Schenkel Invitational will be hosted by the Eagles at Forest Heights CC March 18-20.
Kennesaw State was fourth at Daufuskie Island, S.C., and second in the Owls’ home event at Pinetree CC, but finished well back in both the Carpet Capital and a tournament in Birmingham. Kennesaw was ranked 60th by Golfstat after the Fall season.
Freshman Jake Fendt and junior Chris Guglielmo, who both played their high school golf in Forsyth County, enjoyed successful Fall showings, with Fendt eighth, 20th and 11th in his three starts. Guglielmo placed between 17th and 34th in his four appearances.
Kennesaw’s international trio of sophomore Fredrik Nilehn, junior Teremoana Beaucousin and freshman Pablo Torres all closed out the Fall with top 10s at Pinetree, but the only other top 20 finish in the team’s first three tournaments by a player other than Fendt or Guglielmo was a tie for 17th at Daufuskie Island by sophomore Wyatt Larkin of Morganton in his only Fall start. Freshman Zach Zediker of Macon made a pair of Fall appearances and is looking for more playing time along with Buster Bruton, a redshirt freshman from Dallas.
After a Spring opener in Hawaii, the Owls will stick close to home, with tournaments at Grand National in Opelika, Ala., Athens, Augusta and Charlotte before playing April 17-19 in the Atlantic Sun Championship at the Legends at Chateau Elan.
The highlight of the Fall season for Georgia State was a victory in Mexico, with the Panthers placing three golfers in the top 10. Junior Nathan Mallonee of Lexington, one of only two Georgia State golfers in the starting lineup in all five Fall tournaments, was third in the Panthers’ victory, and placed in the top 20 in all his appearances.
Georgia State was fourth or fifth in three of the team’s other four Fall starts, with the fourth place finishes coming in the Sun Belt Preview and the annual event hosted by the Panthers at Berkeley Hills. The Panthers were ranked 76th coming into their Spring schedule.
Senior J.J. Grey was the only player in the starting lineup all the Panthers’ Fall tournaments, placing third in the Sun Belt Preview, ninth in Mexico and in the top 20 in two of his other three starts.
There is plenty of competition for the other three spots in the lineup. Woodstock freshman Nick Budd contributed to the win in Mexico with a tie for 18th. After tying for 11th as an individual in the Fall opener, sophomore Alex Herrmann started the next four events and twice tied for eighth, with his brother Max Herrmann among the top 25 in three of his four starts.
Freshmen Nathan Williams of Gainesville and James Kyles of Atlanta both appeared in four Fall tournaments and will be competing for playing time in the Spring along with sophomore Hayden Poole of Johns Creek and freshmen Sean Murphy of Decatur and Sam Asbury of Atlanta, each of whom saw action in the Fall.
The Panthers will not travel outside the South this Spring, with two tournaments in Alabama, a visit to Statesboro for the Schenkel Invitational, and events hosted by Furman and Mississippi State. The Sun Belt Championship is scheduled for April 24-27 in Destin.
Mercer tied for second in its Fall opener in Myrtle Beach, but did not finish better than 10th in its last four tournaments, including a last place finish among 14 teams in Georgia State’s tournament at Berkeley Hills and 10th of 12 in a tournament at Pinetree hosted by Kennesaw State.
Sophomore Jerry Ren notched a pair of top-10 finishes for the Bears, and was joined in the top 10 in the team’s Fall opener by junior Sean Smothers and freshman Dylan Deogun. Senior Jeff Heinicka joined Ren and Smothers in the starting lineup for all five Fall events, with a trio of freshmen from Georgia also getting playing time.
McDonough’s Justin Connelly made three starts, with Brennan Bogdanovich appearing twice and finishing as the team’s second low scorer in the Fall finale in Greensboro. Stanton Schorr of Columbus made one appearance as an individual.
The Bears’ Spring schedule includes tournaments in Mobile, Tallahassee, Greenville, S.C., and Charlotte, along with the annual Linger Longer Invitational at Reynolds Plantation. The Southern Conference Championship will be played April 24-26 at Pinehurst.