Two of the longest-running college tournaments in Georgia will be played March 15-17, with five of the state’s seven Division 1 golf programs competing.
The 14th annual Linger Longer Invitational will be played at Reynolds Landing, with the Georgia Bulldogs in the field along with Augusta and co-hosts Mercer and Kennesaw State. The same weekend, Georgia Southern will host the Schenkel Invitational for the 40th time at Forest Heights CC in Statesboro.
The Linger Longer event returns to Reynolds Landing after being played on the Great Waters course from 2011-18. Great Waters is currently being renovated. Reynolds Landing hosted the tournament from 2008-10 after it was played the first two years on the Oconee course. Reynolds Landing, originally known as Port Armor, is the first course built along Lake Oconee, with the outstanding Bob Cupp design opening in 1986.
Defending champion Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee are all among the country’s top 25 teams in the most recent Golfstat rankings, with Louisville one spot out of the top 25. Ohio State, Penn State, Kennesaw State and Virginia are all among the top 64.
The top-ranked individual is Georgia freshman Trent Phillips. Ohio State’s Will Grimmer is ranked ninth and Matthew Schmid of Louisville is 17th.
Alabama and Georgia, which finished second in the tournament last year, have won the Linger Longer four times each.
Georgia Southern will be among the favorites in the Schenkel, which features a balanced field with nine of its 14 teams among the top 100. Charleston is the highest ranked team in the field at 46, followed by Georgia Southern (52) and Mississippi State (56). Other teams include UAB, Minnesota, Notre Dame, Maryland, East Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia Tech.
The highest rankled individual in the field is Georgia Southern senior Steven Fisk of Stockbridge. Fisk, ranked 21st nationally, won three tournaments outright in the Fall and tied for first in another, leading the Eagles to a pair of victories.
GEORGIA, TECH TIE IN PUERTO RICO
The Bulldogs opened their season in Puerto Rico, tying for first with rival Georgia Tech after a wild finish that saw both teams squander late leads.
The two teams ended up with 16-under 848 totals, four strokes in front of third place Oklahoma. The Yellow Jackets led by one shot after 36 holes, but Georgia posted the low score of the third round (280) to tie Tech for the title. The Bulldogs’ last victory came in NCAA Regionals in 2016.
The Yellow Jackets seemed headed for a win, taking the lead with the aid of four birdies in a 5-hole stretch beginning at the ninth by Noah Norton. But Norton, who was 3-under for the day after 16 holes, made a quadruple bogey on the 17th hole.
That enabled Georgia to claim the lead with the aid of a late spurt by freshman Trent Phillips, who played holes 13 to 16 in 4-under with two birdies and an eagle. But Phillips made triple bogey on the final hole to drop the Bulldogs into a tie with Tech.
The triple bogey also cost Phillips the individual title, as he tied for fourth, one shot behind three players who shared medalist honors. Phillips finished at 5-under 211, posting scores of 71-69-71. Trevor Phillips, Trent’s older brother, also tied for fourth with scores of 69-72-70.
Gainesville’s Spencer Ralston birdied three of his last seven holes for a final round 69 tie for 14th at 214, with Georgian teammate Davis Thompson of St. Simons carding three birdies on the back nine for a third round 70 and a tie for 23rd at 216.
Like Trent Phillips, Tech’s Norton also let the individual title slip away. He tied for seventh at 212 after his late quad with scores of 70-69 and a non-counting 73 in the final round. Andy Ogletree was low for Tech, tying for fourth at 211 with scores of 70-70-71. He helped the Jackets earn the tie with an eagle at the 15th and a birdie at the 18th the final day.
Luke Schniederjans of Powder Springs closed with a 68 to tie for 14th at 214. Schniederjans carded seven birdies in the third round. Tyler Strafaci gave the Jackets three players in the top 10, tying Norton for seventh at 212 with scores of 70-70-72.
Sharing individual honors at 210 was Clemson’s Bryson Nimmer, who made the cut later that week in the recent PGA Tour event played in Puerto Rico, and a pair of Georgians playing for out-of-state schools.
Duluth’s Benjamin Shipp, who plays at North Carolina State, shot 71-68-71 to tie for first along with Dunwoody’s Marcus Byrd, who plays at Middle Tennessee State. Byrd shot 73-67-70, surviving a final round double bogey, while Shipp shot 4-under on the back nine to share medalist honors.
Georgia Tech let another potential victory get away in the final round in Las Vegas, placing sixth in the Southern Highlands Collegiate after taking a slim lead after 36 holes.
The Yellow Jackets led by one shot after scores of 283 and 282 the first two days. But three of the team’s top players struggled severely on the back nine the final round, with Tech finishing with a score of 295 to end up 10 behind Oklahoma with a total of 4-under 860.
Schniederjans and Norton, two of the team’s top players, shot 78 and 81 in the final round, with Tech having to count Schniederjans’ score. Schniederjans, who shot 70-69 the first two days, was 2-under after seven holes, but was 8-over the rest of the day with a 42 on the back nine. Norton, who was tied for the individual lead with an opening 67 and followed with a 72, was even par after six holes the final day and 9-over after that, also shooting 42 on the back nine.
Ogletree was low man for the Jackets, tying for ninth at 213 with three scores of 71. He shot 5-under 31 on the front nine in the third round, but came home in 40. Strafaci closed with scores of 70 and 72, playing his last 12 holes the final day in 3-under after starting 3-over after six. Freshman Connor Howe closed with a 74 that included as quadruple-bogey seven on a par-3.
Mercer opened its Spring schedule with a runner-up finish in Palm City, Fla., behind UNC-Greensboro. The Bears led by nine shots after 18 holes, opening with a score of 284. But UNC-G shot 273 the next day to move two in front of Mercer, which again shot 284. UNC-G closed with a 284 to end up six in front of the Bears, who shot 288 in the final round.
Stanton Schorr of Columbus led Mercer, tying for fourth at 5-under 211 with scores of 71-67-73. Freshman Martin Plukka tied for ninth at 215, followed by Tyler Copp, who tied for 14th at 216. Brennan Bogdanovich and Spencer Ball, high school teammates at Lambert in Forsyth County, tied for 17th and 28th respectively.
Kennesaw State placed fifth in a tournament hosted by Auburn at Grand National in Opelika. The Owls were led by Morganton’s Wyatt Larkin, who tied for first at 4-under 212 but lost in a playoff. Larkin shot 72-71-69.
Georgia State’s Josh Edgar opened with scores of 68-70 to lead by four shots after 36 holes, but fell into a tie for third at 213 after a final round 75. Both the Panthers and Mercer finished well back in the tournament.
GEORGIA, MERCER WOMEN PLACE SECOND
Both Georgia’s and Mercer’s women’s team took second in early Spring tournaments, with Georgia traveling to California and Mercer finishing as runner-up at Reynolds National and in Jacksonville.
Georgia placed second in the Gold Rush in southern California, finishing three shots behind San Jose State with a 12-over 876 total
Lawrenceville freshman Jenny Bae led Georgia, placing eighth at 218 with scores of 73-73-72. Fellow freshman Harmie Constantino tied for ninth at 219 along with Gaby Coello, with freshman Jo Hua Hung T13 at 220. Roswell senior Rinko Mitsunaga had non-counting scores the first two rounds before matching Hung’s 74 the next day.
Mercer placed second in an event the Bears hosted at Lake Oconee, finishing 12 strokes behind Vanderbilt with an 893 total. Mercer posted scores of 297-299-297.
Payton Schanen, a junior from Alpharetta, tied for second individually with scores of 73-73-70—216, three behind the medalist. Lauren Lightfritz, a junior from Cumming, tied for ninth at 222.
Without Schanen in the lineup, Mercer also placed second in a tournament in Jacksonville, finishing three shots behind host North Florida with scores of 287-289-298.
The Bears placed three players in the top 10, led by Karina Kukkonen, who finished fifth at 2-under 214. Lightfritz tied for eighth at 218 with a 70 in the second round, and Mary Janiga tied for 10th at 219. Carol Pyon, a freshman from Macon, tied for 24th at 223.