The landscape of college golf in Georgia has changed significantly in recent years.
Until Augusta State’s rapid ascension to the top of the college golf ladder in 2010 and ’11, the only two programs of national status in the state were Georgia and Georgia Tech.
Augusta State has since faded from the national spotlight, but four other Georgia college golf teams emerged as major players last year, and at least three of them are expected to be as good or better in the 2014-15 season.
Kennesaw State and Georgia State both qualified for the NCAA Championship last spring, with Georgia Southern and Mercer earning spots in NCAA Regionals. Georgia Tech, Georgia State, Georgia Southern and Mercer all won their conference championships.
Georgia Tech, Georgia and Mercer all suffered serious graduation losses, but Kennesaw, Georgia State and Georgia Southern return veteran-laden squads to provide hopes for a repeat of last season’s success.
The Yellow Jackets advanced to match play in the NCAA Championship for a second straight year, but went out in the first round after winning their opening match in 2013.
The team loses three of its five starters, including Bo Andrews and Duluth’s Seth Reeves, who both reached match play in the recent U.S. Amateur at Atlanta Athletic Club. Reeves enjoyed a strong senior season, winning twice on the fall and closing out his career with four straight finishes of 7th or better, the last three in the ACC Championship, NCAA Regional (which Tech won) and the NCAA Championship.
Tech returns the country’s No. 1 player – senior Ollie Schniederjans of Powder Springs, along with fellow four-year starter Anders Albertson of Woodstock.
Schniederjans won five tournaments last season, three of them in a row in the spring. He was first or second in his last five starts, taking second in the East Regional and losing a playoff for the NCAA individual title.
Albertson had an inconsistent junior season, tying for second in the ACC Championship and recording five other top 10s. But he also struggled in a number of other tournaments, and will need a better senior season if the Jackets have any hopes of a third straight match play berth in the NCAA Championship.
Sophomore Vincent Whaley, who started in three tournaments in 2013-14, is the only other returning player who saw action last season. Sophomore Michael Hines of Acworth redshirted after playing well as a freshman in 2012-13, and senior Drew Czuchry of Auburn will look to join him in the lineup after playing sparingly in 2011 and ’12.
Four freshmen, three from Georgia, will also contend for playing time. The Georgia trio includes Alpharetta’s Michael Pisciotta, James Clark of Columbus and Jacob Joiner of Leesburg, who joined three members of last season’s team in the U.S. Amateur.
After opening their fall schedule Sept. 5-7 in the annual Carpet Capitol Collegiate at The Farm in Rocky Face, the Yellow Jackets will host the U.S. Collegiate Championship Oct. 17-19 at Golf Club of Georgia.
The Bulldogs also graduated three senior starters – Joey Garber, Keith Mitchell and Michael Cromie – but return a number of players with experience. Georgia won four tournaments last year, including an NCAA Regional in San Antonio.
The Bulldogs return four players who started at least half the time last season, led by Clarkesville junior Lee McCoy, who shared stroke play medalist honors in the U.S. Amateur.
McCoy captured his first individual title last season, and led the Bulldogs with a second place finish at Regionals. Also returning is Augusta’s Greyson Sigg, who played well as a freshman, and senior Nicholas Reach, who had a runner-up finish in 2013-14. Senior Sam Straka of Valdosta also returns, with his brother Sepp Straka also competing for playing time after redshirting last season.
Mookie DeMoss, a senior from Duluth, has played sparingly during his career, but after qualifying for match play in the U.S. Amateur, will be in the mix for a starting berth this season.
Also vying for action will be sophomore Parker Derby of Columbus, along with three freshmen, led by Zach Healy of Peachtree Corners. Like McCoy and DeMoss, Healy qualified for match play in the U.S. Amateur. The other freshmen on the squad are Atlanta’s Jack Larkin and Matthew Beringer of Macon.
The Bulldogs’ fall schedule features tournaments in California, Tennessee, Texas, Florida and Hawaii.
The Owls had two wins last year, including a second straight victory in the event they host at Pinetree Country Club, Kennesaw’s home course. They also finished second five times including the Atlantic Sun tournament and their NCAA Regional, and were third twice.
Kennesaw’s only graduation loss was Jonathan Klotz of Columbus, who missed the entire spring with an injury. Leading the team’s list of returning starters is senior Jimmy Beck of Columbus, the 2013 Georgia Amateur champion and 2014 Georgia Open runner-up, both at Pinetree. Beck tied for third in U.S. Amateur stroke play qualifying at Atlanta Athletic Club, but lost his match play opener.
Beck had a win during his junior season, along with 5 finishes of sixth or better. The Owls also return seniors Kelby Burton and Austin Vick, both of Evans. Burton enjoyed a solid junior season, and Vick keyed the team’s runner-up finish in the A-Sun tournament at Chateau Elan with a tie for 2nd.
Terremoana Beaucousin, a sophomore from Tahiti, made a major contribution as a freshman, finishing second in scoring average behind Beck. Cumming’s Chris Guglielmo took over as the fifth starter in Klotz’s absence and also turned in some solid showings as a freshman.
Buster Bruton of Dallas redshirted as a freshman, and will be joined on the squad by incoming freshman Wyatt Larkin of Morganton.
The Owls opened their fall schedede in the Carpet Capitol Collegiate and will again host the Pinetree Invitational Oct. 20-21.
The Panthers collected four tournament titles last year, among them the fall event they host at Berkeley Hills and three in the spring including the Big South Championship. Four of their starters are back, with Alpharetta’s Tyler Gruca the lone senior among the starters.
Among the retuning starters is senior Davin White of Griffin, who led the team in scoring average, had top 10s in two of the Panthers’ tournament wins and was a contender for the individual title for 36 holes at the NCAA Championship.
Senior Damon Stephenson and junior J.J. Grey both had a number of top finishes, and Lexington’s Nathan Mallonee was in the starting lineup for almost his entire freshman season, highlighted by a tie for 6th in the Panthers’ victory at Berkeley Hills.
Gus Wagoner of Duluth, a transfer from Armstrong Atlantic, is looking to take over for Gruca after sitting out last season. Wagoner won a 2013 Georgia PGA event at Berkeley Hills, Georgia State’s home course
The Panthers will again host the AutoTrader.com Collegiate at Berkeley Hills Oct. 13-14.
The Eagles are coming off a season in which they won the Schenkel Invitational, an event they’ve hosted for years, for the first time and also won the Southern Conference Championship.
Three seniors from that squad graduated, but a number of the Eagles’ top players are back, led by senior Scott Wolfes of St. Simons Island. Wolfes was the individual medalist in the Schenkel and had five other top 10 finishes as a junior.
Seniors Charlie Martin of LaGrange and Matt Mierzejewski of Alpharetta also return, with Martin recording four finishes of sixth or better, including the conference championship. Junior Henry Mabbett of Griffin also played extensively, with the Eagles returning five of eight players who made at least five starts.
Will Evans of McDonough was the most significant loss among the three seniors, with junior Caleb Morris of Metter hoping to move into one of the vacated spots.
The Bears won the Atlantic Sun Championship to earn a berth in the NCAA Regionals, and return three starters from that squad. However, two of the team’s three primary players – James Beale and Hans Reimers — graduated, and head coach Steve Bradley left for South Florida.
Mercer returns senior Trey Rule of Eatonton, who won two tournaments including the Atlantic Sun Championship at the Legends at Chateau Elan, had three other top 10s and finished outside the top 20 in only one tournament.
Also back are Emmanuel Kountakis of Augusta and Sean Smothers, who both started as freshmen. Kountakis shared the individual title in his second collegiate start at Macon’s Brickyard at Riverside course.
Several other players, including Evan Usry of Evans, Parks Brown of Gainesville and Justin Connelly of McDonough saw limited action last year and will be competing for the two open spots in the lineup.
Mercer’s new coach is Kirk Kayden, who led Austin Peay to two Ohio Valley Conference titles during 10 years as head coach there.
The Jaguars have struggled since their back-to-back national championships, and did not qualify for the NCAA Championship last season. Alex Wennstam, the team’s top player in 2013-14 has graduated, but the rest of the Jaguars’ front line players, including Cody Shafer, a senior from Evans, return.
Other than Floridian Jake Marriott, most of the other top returnees are from outside the U.S., with the team including players from Australia, Sweden and Thailand.
The Jaguars’ 2014-15 schedule includes three tournaments in South Carolina and the annual event at Forest Hills hosted by the Jaguars the weekend prior to the Masters (April 4-5).