A pair of golfers from Georgia universities placed in the top 10 of the NCAA Championship earlier this week in Arkansas, as the three teams from the state that qualified for the event all failed to advance to the final round of stroke play.
Georgia Southern’s Steven Fisk wrapped up an outstanding senior season, placing second in a field of more than 150 players, while Georgia freshman Trent Phillips tied for eighth after needing a playoff to make the 54-hole cut.
None of Georgia’s three teams that competed in the NCAA Championship made the 54-hole, as all three struggled to handle a very difficult golf course.
Georgia Tech finished 18th at 903, three shots out of a top-15 finish required to advance to the final round of team play. The top 8 teams after 72 holes moved on to match play to determine a national champion. Georgia was 24th at 911 with Georgia Southern tying for 25th at 913.
Both Georgia Tech and Georgia began the final round tied for 13th with scores of 600, but both fell out of the top 15. The Yellow Jackets shot a final round 303 while the Bulldogs shot 311 after carding scores of 300 the first two days. The Eagles were never inside the top 15, falling from 19th after the first round to 22nd going to the third day of play.
Georgia Tech opened with a 307 and was tied for 17th after the first day before moving up to a tie for 13th with a second round 293. Tyler Strafaci was low for Tech the first day with a 75, followed by Noah Norton (76), Andy Ogletree (77) and Luke Schniederjans (79). Connor Howe’s 80 did not count. Schniederjans struggled early and late in his round, playing his first six holes in 5-over and his last six in 4-over. He was 2-under with his only two birdies on his middle six holes.
The Jackets had their best round the next day led by Schniederjans, whose 67 missed the course record by one shot, and Strafaci, who was also under par with a 70. Schniederjans carded seven birdies in his round, while Strafaci began his day with birdies on the first three holes. Howe shot 77 and both Norton and Ogletree had multiple big numbers on their scorecards and shot 79.
Howe and Ogletree rebounded to lead Tech the final day with scores of 72 and 74 respectively. Howe got off to a fast start and was 4-under after eight holes before finishing at even par. Ogletree recovered from a quadruple bogey 8 on the first hole, scoring birdies at 15, 16 and 17 to play his last 17 holes in 2-under. Strafaci shot 77, while Schniederjans and Norton both shot 80. A 77 by either player would have at least enabled the Yellow Jackets to tie for 15th.
It was an up-and down day for Schniederjans, a junior from Powder Springs. He had five birdies on his scorecard, but also made triple bogeys on a pair of par 3s along with a double bogey, and carded three of his five bogeys on the final three holes. Norton was 2-over after 11 holes, but went 6-over on his last seven with a pair of double bogeys.
All five of Tech’s starters are eligible to return next season, with Schniederjans, Strafaci and Ogletree seniors in the fall. Strafaci was low in the NCAAs at 222, with Schniederjans next at 226.
Georgia was ninth after a 300 the first day and again shot 300 in the second round to stay in the top 15. Freshman Trent Phillips opened with four birdies and a 73, followed by Gainesville junior Spencer Ralston at 74. St. Simons Island sophomore David Thompson shot 76 with five birdies, six bogeys and a triple bogey, with Watkinsville freshman Will Kahlstorf contributing a 77 with three double bogeys. Trevor Phillips’ 79 did not count.
Trent Phillips again led the Bulldogs in the second round and was tied for ninth individually after a 71. Thompson shot 73 after turning in 2-under and Ralston added a 75 with six bogeys on his last 10 holes.
Kahlstorf was 1-over after 11 holes, but played his last seven in 11-over for an 84, with Georgia having to county Trevor Phillips’ 81.
Thompson’s 75 was Georgia’s low score in the third round, as the Bulldogs shot 311, 11 shots higher than needed for a spot in the top 15. Trent Phillips shot 77 to tie for 29th at 221, and won a three-way playoff to advance to the final round of stroke play.
Playing as an individual the next day, Phillips shot his best round of the week, a 4-under 68 with only one bogey to move up more than 20 spots in the standings, finishing with a 1-over 289 total. He came into the NCAA Championship ranked 19th in the country.
Phillips placed 16th or better in all but one of his 11 starts as a freshman, with finishes of third or better in each of his first four tournaments and a total of seven top 10s. In the SEC Championship at Sea Island GC, the event in which he placed lower than 16th, he led after an opening round 65 before suffering through a rough final day.
For the second time in three days, Ralston managed just one birdie in his final round and shot 79, while Trevor Phillips finished with an 80 after beginning his day 3-under after five holes. Kahlstorf had a non-counting 81.
Thompson was second on the team for the tournament with a 224 total, followed by Ralston at 228. All five Georgia starters are eligible to return this fall, along with several others who saw action this past season and freshman Nic Cassidy, who joined the team in the spring but did not play.
Georgia Southern posted scores of 308-299-306 for a 913 total. Fisk, a senior from Stockbridge, came into the tournament ranked 14th in the country, and played up to his ranking, shooting 76-68-68 the first three days to advance to the final round of stroke play and was third after 54 holes.
Fisk trailed Oklahoma State’s Matthew Wolff, the top-ranked player in the country, by three strokes going into the final round, and fell eight shots behind Wolff after playing his first four holes in 3-over. But Fisk fought back, shooting 4-under 32 on the back nine for a 71 and place second at 283, five behind Wolff, who shot 33 on the back nine for a 69.
As a senior, Fisk collected six tournament victories, including wins in the Sun Belt Championship, where he shot 61 in the second round, the long-running Schenkel Invitational hosted by the Eagles in Statesboro and the tournament at Berkeley Hills hosted by Georgia State, the fourth of his four straight wins in the fall. He led the Eagles into the NCAA Championship with a tie for sixth in Regionals, one of nine top 10s on the season.
After completing his college career on Monday, he was one of 10 players selected a a first team All-American by the college golf coaches.
Ben Carr, a freshman from Columbus, matched Fisk’s opening 76 in Arkansas, closing his round with four birdies on his last six holes. Brett Barron, a junior from Forsyth County, shot 77 and Jake Maples, a junior from McDonough, settled for a 79 with four birdies. Colin Bowles, a freshman from Albany, had a non-counting 81.
Fisk fired a second round 68 with six birdies to move into the top 10 individually. Barron was next with a 73, followed by Maples at 77, as the Eagles shot their low score of the tournament despite having to count Carr’s 81. Bowles shot 82.
Needing a team score of 293 to have a chance at advancing, Fisk shot another 68 with six birdies. Carr added a 76, but no other Georgia Southern golfer broke 80 on the demanding Blessings GC layout in Fayetteville. Bowles shot 80, Maples 82 and Barron a non-counting 83. Carr and Barron both shot 233 for the tournament.
Fisk was the Eagles’ lone senior starter, with Barron and Maples both seniors in 2019-20. There will likely be plenty of competition for playing time on next season’s team.