The Spring college golf schedule has already begin, with Georgia Tech, the state’s highest-ranked team after the Fall season, playing its first 2019 tournament this week in Hawaii.
The Yellow Jackets ended the Fall ranked the second in the country in the Golfstat rankings, followed by Georgia at 22. Georgia Southern (43) and Kennesaw State (54) are both in position to earn at-large bids to the NCAA Regionals if they don’t win their conference tournaments. Augusta, Mercer and Georgia State are ranked outside the top 100 and will likely need to win their conference titles to qualify for the NCAA tournament, with Augusta again heavily favored in its conference championship.
The Yellow Jackets had a strong Fall, losing the season-opening Carpet Capital at the Farm in a playoff, winning an event in Arizona and placing third in the tournament they host annually at Golf Club of Georgia. The team also shared the title in a match play event at Muirfield Village in Ohio, which was shortened by rain.
Luke Schniederjans, a junior from Powder Springs, closed out the Fall ranked eighth in the country. He was low man for Tech in the Carpet Capital, tying for fourth at 6-under 210, shot 7-under 203 to tie for 12th in Arizona and was the runner-up at GC of Georgia at 10-under 206.
Junior Tyler Strafaci and sophomore Noah Norton enter the Spring ranked 23 and 32 nationally. Strafaci tied for sixth in the both the Carpet Capital and in Arizona and was T19 at GC of Georgia, Norton also tied for sixth in Arizona at 8-under 202, and posted scores of 67 and 65 in the two tournaments hosted by the Jackets, but followed both those rounds with 76s.
Also starting for the Jackets in the Fall were junior Andy Ogletree and senior James Clark of Columbus, who redshirted the 2017-18 season. Clark tied for 14th and Ogletree for 16th as Tech tied for first in the Carpet Capital before losing in a playoff to Tennessee after both teams finished at 843. Ogletree tied for 17th in Arizona, with Clark second on the team at GC of Georgia, tying for 17th at 2-under 214.
The Yellow Jackets were 68-under par for their three Fall stroke play events, finishing 21-under at the Farm, 28-under in Scottsdale and 19-under at GC of Georgia. Tech led by six shots after opening with an 18-under 270 score at GC of Georgia, but was just 1-under over the final 36 holes and finished 13 behind champion Southern Cal.
Five of the other six golfers on Tech’s roster are freshmen, including Luka Karaulic of Dacula and Bartley Forrester of Gainesville.
Georgia Tech opened its 2019 schedule in Hawaii, and travels to Puerto Rico and Las Vegas for its next two tournaments before closing out its Spring schedule with events in Florida and at Clemson. The ACC Championship is April 18-20 in North Carolina.
The Yellow Jackets won four tournaments in 2017-18 including the Carpet Capital and the ACC, but just missed advancing to the NCAA Championship, placing sixth in Regionals. Only the top five qualify for nationals.
The Bulldogs also failed to advance to the NCAA Championship last year, but have been bolstered by the addition of freshman Trent Phillips, who is ranked seventh nationally after an impressive Fall debut.
Phillips, the younger brother of junior Trevor Phillips, had top-3 finishes in three of Georgia’s four stroke play events in the Fall, and was T11 in the other. He shot in the 60s in each of his first 10 rounds as a Bulldog before a final round 71 in the team’s final Fall event in Hawaii.
The only other Georgian who ended the Fall in the top 100 is Gainesville junior Spencer Ralston, who placed fourth and ninth in the team’s final two tournaments to end 2018 ranked 81st.
The Bulldogs used eight players during their Fall schedule, finishing second in a season-opening event at Pebble Beach and placing second behind UAB against a weaker field in Louisiana. Georgia also tied for 10th at Colonial and was sixth at Ka’anapali in Hawaii. Like Georgia Tech, the Bulldogs competed in the match play event at Muirfield Village that was shortened by rain, splitting its two matches.
The only other Georgia golfer to appear in all five Fall events was sophomore Davis Thompson of St. Simons, who tied for 11th in the opener at Pebble Beach and was fourth in Louisiana. Tye Waller, a redshirt junior from Griffin, made four starts, but finished well back in his last two appearances in stroke play events after a top 20 in the Carmel Cup. Waller was the only Georgia golfer to go 2-0 in the match play tournament.
Trevor Phillips placed between 16th and 33rd in his three Fall starts, with freshman Will Kahlstorf of Watkinsville playing in the last three tournaments, tying for eighth while competing as an individual in Louisiana. Sophomore John Hilliard Catanzaro finished in the middle of the pack in his two starts, posting scores of 66 and 68, while junior Will Chandler of Atlanta was second on the team in his lone stroke play start at Colonial CC in Ft. Worth.
Nicolas Cassidy, one of the state’s top junior golfers in recent years, has joined the team after graduating early from Johns Creek High School, and could help the Bulldogs immediately. Georgia qualified for the NCAA Championship every year but one from 1998 to 2016, but has not made it to nationals in its past two attempts.
The Eagles finished either first or second in their last three Fall tournaments, winning in Cashiers, N.C., and placing second in an event hosted by Notre Dame, before defending their title at Berkeley Hills in a tournament hosted by Georgia State. Georgia Southern was fifth in its rain-shortened opener at the Ocean Course and was seventh at Shoal Creek in Birmingham after standing second after 18 holes.
Steven Fisk, a senior from Stockbridge, had an outstanding Fall, tying for first in the event at Shoal Creek and finishing first outright in the Eagles’ next three tournaments. He was a combined 48-under par in his four wins, and is on pace to break the school scoring record he set last year at 69.78. He averaged 68.36 in the Fall. Fisk was the Sun Belt Freshman of the Year in 2016 and the Player of the Year in 2018.
Fisk shot 10-under 203 at Cashiers as the Eagles won by 13 with a 30-under 822 total. He won by five at Berkeley Hills at 17-under 199, with Georgia Southern eking out a one-stroke margin of victory with a 35-under 829 score. He shot 15-under 198 to win by five at Notre Dame, with the Eagles 10 behind Illinois in the team competition. Fisk enters the Spring ranked 18th nationally.
Four other Georgia Southern golfers saw action in all five Fall tournaments. Macon freshman Wilson Andress had the team’s second lowest scoring average at 70.86 and placed in the top 20 four of five times with a pair of top 10s including a T4 at Berkeley Hills.
Ben Carr, a freshman from Columbus, also had two top 10s, with his best showing a T7 at Berkeley Hills. Sophomore Avery Price had one top 10 and shared team medalist honors at the Ocean Course with Fisk and Carr, tying for 17th. Mason Williams, a third freshman to make an early impact for the Eagles, tied for fifth at Cashiers with a final round 65.
Five other Georgia Southern golfers competed in Fall events, mostly as individuals. Senior Crawford Simmons (Statesboro), juniors Brett Barron (Cumming) and Luukas Alakulppi (Valdosta) and sophomore Jacob Bayer (Lawrenceville) all made at least two appearances, and will be looking to move into the starting lineup in the Spring. Junior Alexander DeRosa (Atlanta) did not play in the Fall, and a deep roster has added more talent, as 2016 Georgia Amateur champion Colin Bowles of Albany transferred to Georgia Southern mid-season after playing as a freshman at Ohio State.
The Eagles play all six of their tournaments in Georgia or neighboring states, with the annual Schenkel Invitational, an event hosted by Georgia Southern at Forest Heights CC, scheduled for March 15-17.
The Owls closed out their Fall schedule by placing second in a tournament they host at Pinetree CC and third at Steelwood in Alabama. After placing 12th out of 15 teams in their 2018-19 opener at the Farm, the Owls finished in the middle of the pack at Shoal Creek and in Tennessee after holding at least a share of the first round lead in both.
Kennesaw sports a veteran team featuring three seniors and one junior in the starting five. The four have played a combined 200 rounds for the Owls and have all competed at the NCAA Regional and Championship level.
Jake Fendt, a senior from Cumming, is the team’s highest ranked player, finishing between 7th and 22nd in all five of his Fall starts. Fendt has 12 career top 10s and 24 top-20 finishes. Wyatt Larkin, a senior from Morganton, started slowly in the Fall, but closed with finishes of fourth and seventh at Pinetree and Steelwood.
Peachtree City junior Connor Coffee recorded a pair of top 10s in the Fall, both in Alabama, and was the team’s low finisher in three of the five tournaments. The team’s other veteran starter is senior Pablo Torres, whose best Fall finish was a tie for 12th at Pinetree, where the Owls ended up five shots behind Wisconsin.
Freshman Grant Sutliff, like Fendt a graduate of Lambert HS in Forsyth County, closed out the Fall as the team’s fifth starter with back-to-back ties for 14th at Pinetree and Steelwood. Sophomore Brady Keran of Canton, who started for much of his freshman season, made two Fall starts and is the main challenger to Sutliff for a starting role this Spring.
Also seeing action in the Fall was senior Adam Morris of Acworth and freshmen Justin Kim of Rome and Connor Rostowsky of Kennesaw.
Kennesaw sticks close to home for its Spring schedule, with two tournaments in Alabama and three in Georgia. The Owls will play the Linger Longer Invitational at Reynolds Landing March 15-17 and the one-day Southern Intercollegiate at Athens CC April 15. The Atlantic Sun Championship is scheduled for April 21-23 at the Legends at Chateau Elan.
Other than a poor showing against a strong field at Inverness in Toledo, the Bears had a solid Fall with finishes of second, third, fourth and fifth. The Bears’ best finish came in the season opener in Hattiesburg when they placed second, four shots behind host Southern Miss.
Sophomore Tyler Copp led Mercer with a runner-up finish, while three of his teammates also had their best showings of the Fall, tying for sixth. Among the trio were senior Stanton Schorr and sophomore Nolan Miller, both from Columbus, and freshman Martin Plukka.
Copp added a pair of top 15 finishes and ended the Fall with the team’s lowest scoring average. Schorr led the Bears to a third place finish in Baton Rouge by placing seventh, and closed the Fall with a 67 in Greensboro, N.C., as Mercer ended up fifth.
Mercer’s other two Fall regulars were Spencer Ball, a junior from Cumming, and sophomore Lino Guldin. Ball closed out the Fall with three straight top 20s, including a T16 at Pinetree where the Bears placed fourth.
Senior Brennan Bogdanovich, a starter in each of his first three seasons, did not crack the starting lineup in the Fall, playing in only one event as an individual. Bogdanovich, a high school teammate of Ball, was not the only former Mercer starter unable to break into the lineup in the Fall, joining junior Kiko Rosete, named to the Southern Conference all-freshman team in 2017. Senior Hayes Rule of Eatonton, a starter as a sophomore, did not play in any of the five Fall events.
Mercer’s Spring schedule includes the Linger Longer Invitational, an event the Bears co-host, at Reynolds Landing March 15-17, and a tournament hosted by Augusta at Forest Hills April 6-7. The conference championship is scheduled for April 21-25 at Pinehurst.
The Jaguars played a strong Fall schedule and did not have a finish higher than ninth until a third at Turtle Point GC on Kiawah Island. Augusta is playing this season without Broc Everett, who captured the 2018 NCAA individual title as a senior.
Augusta comes into the Spring with just six players on its roster, as two of its Fall starters are no longer listed as being with the team. The three remaining starters are sophomore Alex Shead of Appling, a small community just outside Augusta, junior Gustav Andersson and freshman Alex van Wyk.
Shead, who started as a freshman, placed 16th and 12th in his first two outings of the Fall, while van Wyk closed with his best performance, a tie for 11th at Kiawah. Andersson recorded a pair of top 20s.
McCullough Pickens, a junior from Sea Island, and freshman Viktor Lindgren saw limited action in the Fall, but will be counted on in the Spring. Pickens is a transfer from Belmont, where he started as a freshman. Also on the roster is senior Adam Walden of Wrens, who started for two seasons at Savannah State before transferring to Augusta.
The Jaguars will play their last three tournaments in Georgia, beginning with the Linger Longer Invitational at Reynolds Landing. They host the annual 3M Invitational at Forest Hills the weekend before the Masters (April 6-7) and will play in the MEAC Championship at Crosswinds in Savannah April 28-30, a tournament the team has dominated since joining the conference for golf several years ago.
A third place finish at Berkeley Hills in a tournament hosted by the Panthers was Georgia State’s only highlight of an otherwise disappointing Fall. The Panthers shot 16-under 848 but finished 19 shots behind Georgia Southern’s winning total.
Senior Severin Soler turned in the Panthers’ best showing of the Fall, tying for fourth at Berkeley Hills, but competed as an individual so his score did not count for the team. Teammates James Kyles, a senior from Atlanta, and freshman David Li tied for 13th, with junior Josh Edgar T19. In the team’s first three starts of the season, no Georgia State player placed higher than 35th.
Nine Georgia State golfers saw action in at least two tournaments in the Fall, with a different player the team’s low scorer in all four tournaments. Nick Budd, a senior from Woodstock, was the only Panther to compete in all four events and was the team’s low man in the Fall opener on Kiawah Island, but was not in the starting lineup at Berkeley Hills.
Li had the team’s lowest scoring average in the Fall, followed by Kyles and junior Egill Gunnarsson, who made three starts and was low for the Panthers in Raleigh. Gainesville senior Nathan Williams and freshman Frederick Hedmark also made two Fall starts, with Marietta sophomore Owen Sertl making three appearances, one as a starter. Sophomore Connor McKinnon made his lone appearance at Berkeley Hills, where his father is the head professional.
The Panthers’ Spring schedules includes tournaments hosted by Georgia Southern and Augusta, as well as visits to Auburn, Furman and Birmingham. The Sun Belt Championship will be played April 21-24 in Destin.