Augusta State sets sights on repeat title
Jaguars join ‘Dogs, Jackets as national power
By Mike Blum
For years, Georgia and Georgia Tech were the lone college golf teams in the state with national championship aspirations.
That suddenly changed last year, when Augusta State emerged as a national player, culminating an outstanding season with a somewhat surprising triumph in the NCAA Championship outside Chattanooga.
The Jaguars returned all five starters from their championship squad, and after several near-misses in the Fall season, remain a legitimate contender for a second straight title.
Both Georgia and Georgia Tech showed signs in the Fall of being able to make a run at a national title, and the two teams will face off against each other three times in the span of a month in the early stages of their Spring schedules.
Of the remaining Division 1 schools in the state, Kennesaw State is the most likely to make some noise, with a strong duo at the top of the lineup and some momentum from a solid Fall showing.
Augusta State put together two runner-up finishes and a tie for 4th in the NCAA Preview before closing out its Fall schedule in disappointing fashion. The Jaguars are a veteran group with three seniors and two juniors, with a trio of Georgia residents among the five starters.
Macon’s Taylor Floyd and Augusta’s Patrick Reed are the juniors among the five starters, with Evans’ Carter Newman one of a trio of seniors. Sweden’s Henrik Norlander and Australia’s Mitch Krywulcyz round out the Augusta lineup, with all five making major contributions in the Jaguars’ NCAA triumph last June.
Reed, Norlander and Newman all recorded a pair of strong showings last Fall, with Krywulcyz solid for most of the schedule. The Jaguars finished second at the Brickyard in Macon, just one shot behind Georgia, and were within range of victory in two other major Fall events.
Augusta’s Spring schedule includes two visits to California, a pair of tournaments in South Carolina and an annual event hosted by the Jaguars, which will be played at Forest Hills April 2-3, the weekend before the Masters.
The Jaguars opened the Spring schedule with a 3rd place finish in Newport, Calif., eight strokes behind UCLA. Reed tied for 3rd at 4-under 206, closing with scores of 66-68. Krywulcyz tied for 10th at 213 with Norlander shooting a final round 68 to tie for 17th at 215.
Like Augusta, Georgia closed out its Fall season with its poorest showing, but played well in its first three events on the 2010-11 schedule, including a 3rd place finish in the NCAA Preview and a narrow win over the Jaguars in Macon.
Georgia senior Russell Henley was the tournament medalist at the Brickyard, tying current PGA Tour rookie Chris Kirk for most individual wins in Bulldog history – seven. Other than that tournament, it was not an especially successful Fall season for Henley, who won the Fred Haskins Award as the country’s top college player and was also Golfweek’s pick as Player of Year in 2010.
Harris English, Georgia’s other home state senior standout (Thomasville) had a steady but unspectacular Fall, placing between 12th and 16th in all four starts. Senior Hudson Swafford, back in action after sitting out all of the 2009-10 season, put together a strong showing in the NCAA Preview, placing 2nd, but that was his only finish better than 18th.
The Bulldogs will be looking for better results from the team’s No. 4 and 5 players, with a number of players in the mix for those spots, including Albany sophomore T.J. Mitchell, who made three starts during the Fall.
Georgia’s Spring schedule includes three tournaments in state — a Match Play event at Hawks Ridge March 20-22, the Linger Longer Invitational (hosted by the Bulldogs) March 27-29 at Reynolds Plantation, and the SEC Championship at Sea Island GC April 15-17.
Georgia Tech enjoyed an excellent Fall season, with a trio of top-4 finishes, including an impressive win in the U.S. Collegiate Championship, and a respectable 7th place effort in the NCAA Preview.
Seniors J.T. Grffin and Paul Haley had seven top 10s between them in 10 Fall starts, with fellow senior Kyle Scott closing out the Fall with a pair of top 5s. Junior James White of Acworth recorded two top-10 finishes, including an individual title in the USCC at Golf Club of Georgia. White won the tournament by seven strokes, highlighted by a course record 62 on the Lakeside layout, former host of a Champions Tour event.
Freshman Richy Werenski finished the Fall as the team’s No. 5 player. Redshirt freshman Seth Reeves of Duluth played well in his college debut in Macon, and is one of several players competing for a spot in the lineup this Spring.
In its Spring opener, Tech took 4th in its annual visit to Hawaii. White shot a second round 66 and tied for 10th at 7-under 209, with Griffin T14 at 210.
Among the team’s Spring tournaments are the Callaway Match Play at Hawks Ridge March 20-22 and the inaugural Yellow Jacket Classic April 16-17 at Golf Club of Georgia.
Kennesaw State opened its Fall schedule with a victory in Hattiesburg, Miss., and had two players win individual titles. Jeff Karlsson won the Hattiesburg event with a 199 total, and was 2nd and 6th in his next two starts.
Buena Vista junior Matt Nagy, who sat out the 2009-10 season, won an event at Daufuskie Island, S.C., and tied for 2nd in the team’s Fall finale in Sapphire, N.C. Calhoun senior Chad Wilson added a 3rd place finish to help the Owls tie for 4th in a tournament in Kentucky.
Sophomore Ben Greene of Duluth was in the lineup for all four Kennesaw matches last Fall, with freshmen Kelby Burton of Evans and Jonathan Klotz of Columbus also competing in Fall events.
The Owls have a busy Spring schedule, including two tournaments in Florida, three in the Carolinas, and in-state events at Reynolds Plantation March 27-29 and the Atlantic Sun Championship April 18-20 at Chateau Elan.
Just as they did in the Fall, the Owls won their Spring opener, taking a 16-team match play event at TPC Tampa Bay, the host course of a Champions Tour event. Kennesaw defeated Charleston Southern and Campbell before rolling past Marquette in the semifinals and edging Ball State in the title match.
Greene won all four of his matches, ending three on the 15th hole and taking the other 3&1. Wilson and Klotz both went 3-1, with Klotz clinching an opening 3-2 win over Charleston Southern. Nagy won twice in routs and secured a key half in the finals, with Wilson and Greene winning by 4&3 margins.
Georgia State is looking for a better Spring showing after a tough Fall season. The Panthers highest finish in the Fall was a tie for 8th in Raleigh, N.C.
The team’s roster includes nine Georgians among 11 players on the squad, led by seniors Alan Fowler of Gainesville and Brent Paul of Columbus. Paul’s tie for 16th in Raleigh was the best showing by a Georgia State golfer in the Fall, and the lone top-30 finish by a Panther.
Freshman Tyler Gruca from Milton also appeared in all four tournaments in the Fall, leading the team in his first college start. Fellow freshman Bryan Fox of Roswell also played in the Panthers’ Fall opener and posted one of just three rounds in the 60s by the team. Grant Cagle of Gainesville was the third Georgia freshman to see action in the Fall, joining older brother Jared Cagle in the lineup.
The Panthers placed 12th in their Spring opener at TPC Sawgrass, with Paul and Fowler the team’s top finishers. The team makes two in-state appearances, playing in the Augusta State Invitational April 2-3 and the Yellow Jacket Classic April 16-17.
Georgia Southern tied for 5th in its Fall opener in Florence, S.C., but that proved to be the Eagles best finish in four starts. Statesboro senior Matt Deal was in the lineup in each of the Eagles’ Fall appearances, with McDonough freshman Will Evans making three starts. Logan Blondell is the only other senior starter, and posted the best finish of the Fall by a Georgia Southern golfer, taking 2nd in Florence, where the Southern Conference Championship is played.
The highlight of the Eagles’ Spring schedule is the annual Schenkel Invitational, hosted by Georgia Southern March 18-20 at Forest Heights CC. The Eagles will also play in the Augusta State Invitational April 2-3.
With three Georgians among their five primary starters, Mercer got its Spring season off to a respectable start with a middle-of-the-pack 8th place finish at TPC Sawgrass. All five starters contributed, including Thomasville junior Josh Cone, Valdosta sophomore John Gregory Joseph and Duluth freshman Mookie DeMoss.
Cone led the Bears during the Fall, posting finishes of 5th in Charleston and 6th in Memphis, with the team twice tying for 7th for its best showing. Mercer takes a Spring trip to the highly regarded Bandon Dunes Resort in Oregon in March, and plays in the Linger Longer Invitational at Reynolds Plantation March 27-29.
Georgia College, a top team in Division II, placed 2nd in its season opener in Lakeland, Fla., with Duluth senior Billy Shida earning medalist honors by five strokes at 11-under 205 with scores of 67-69-69. Cochran’s Joe Young tied for 7th at 213 for the Bobcats, who started five Georgians in the tournament. Georgia College led by seven shots after 36 holes, but wound up four in back of West Florida.