2007-2008 Eagle Golf Preview
STATESBORO, Ga. Head golf coach Larry Mays and the Georgia Southern Eagles are ready to hit the links.
As summer turns into fall, the Eagles are eager to translate their hard work in the off-season into success. With their first opportunity in sight, Sep. 15, at the Gopher Invitational in Wayzata, Minn., the eighth-year head coach is pleased with the hard work that the student-athletes have displayed.
“Throughout our first couple weeks of practice, our team has had a real workman-type of attitude,” said Mays. “The players have been grinding it out and putting in the necessary work to get the results that we want.”
Although Mays loses All-Southern Conference golfer Bryan Jones from his arsenal due to graduation, the Eagles return six talented lettermen to the 2007-2008 roster. And with the welcome addition of three of the nation’s top newcomers, Mays has a deep group of talented golfers to work with.
“The team feels a little deeper than in years past,” said Mays. “Competition amongst themselves will give them that sense of urgency to earn their spot to play. It means that they’ll be more battle-tested and ready for tournament play. With the competition for spots, it means that the guys going out to play on the tournaments will be ready to go.”
The roster includes one senior, four juniors, two sophomores and three freshmen.
The lone senior, Chris Smith, returns for his final year as an Eagle after competing in all 12 tournaments during the 2006-2007 campaign. The Alpharetta, Ga. native finished fourth on the team in strokes average (74.92) and of the returning golfers, earned the team’s best individual finish, tying for third at the Wolf Run Intercollegiate (Oct. 7-8). His score of 65 (-6) in the second round of the same tournament lasted as the team’s lowest round of 18 for the season.
“Chris has come on pretty good these last couple years,” said Mays. “He’s a good team-leader and does a great job for us. He’s had a great summer and we’ll be looking for him to lead this team throughout the season.”
Having also competed in all 12 tournaments last year, junior Jordan Johnstun (Evans, Ga.) comes back with the lowest strokes average (74.11) while sharing a low 54 score of 215 (-1) with two teammates. He finished tied for eighth at the SoCon Championship (Apr. 22) and earned three other top 15 finishes.
“Jordan had a big summer competing very well in some amateur tournaments,” said Mays. “He’s going to be a leader on the golf course. He’s set pretty high expectations this year and we look for him to step up and shine on the golf course.”
Juniors Drew Lethem (Camdenton, Mo.) and Ryan LeFevre (Boca Raton, Fla.) round out the team’s upperclass. Lethem, who transferred from Odessa College to GSU at the beginning of 2007, gave the Eagles an extra boost. At The Intercollegiate (Apr. 13) Lethem shot the team’s lowest 54-hole tally at 215 (-1), a score that was also repeated by Johnston and LeFevre throughout the season. Lethem earned two top-ten finishes, including a tie for fourth place at the Southern Conference tournament.
LeFevre saw action in all 12 tournaments last season, finishing the year with a 75.06 strokes average and three top-20 finishes, including a tie for 17th at the Linger Longer Invitational (May 13).
“We’re looking for both of them to come in and be a steady force in the line up,” explained Mays. “They’ve got plenty of experience and we look for them to step up a notch this season.”
Junior Ryan Zabroske (Alpharetta, Ga.) and sophomores Matt Deal (Statesboro, Ga.) and Spencer Fulford (Rocky Mount, N.C.) return to add depth to the roster.
“Matt, Spencer and Ryan, though they didn’t get a lot of experience last year, I know that they’ve been working hard on their game and I look forward for them to compete for a spot in the lineup throughout the year,” added Mays.
A trio of highly touted freshmen Logan Blondell (Lakeland, Fla.), Kyle Cothran (Soddy Daisy, Tenn.) and Joe Monte (Chantilly, Va.) joins the squad as three of some of the top newcomers in the country.
“The three freshmen coming in all have extensive junior resumes,” said Mays. “We hope for an immediate impact from these three. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a freshman travel with us regularly each week. All three freshmen are hard workers and are looking to come in and earn their spot and lead the program into the future.”
With a unique mix of experience and youth, Mays and the Eagles have definite and concrete goals set in place.
“We want to compete on a national level,” explained Mays. “We feel that we’re talented enough to compete with just about anybody and we feel we have a chance to win each golf tournament. We just want to get better each tournament and look to reclaim the Southern Conference title. And the overriding goal that we have is that we want to have our last tournament that we play in this season to be the NCAA Championship tournament.”
But before then, the Eagles will pit their best golfers against some of the finest golf programs in the country, schools that compete regularly in the national tournament.
“Our schedule is one of the tougher schedules in the country,” said Mays. “It’s a good test, week in and week out. Top to bottom, it’s a tough schedule.”
Georgia Southern will take advantage of an opportunity to host two tournaments this year. In the fall, the Mizuno Southbridge Intercollegiate will be played at the Southbridge Golf Club in Savannah, Ga. (Oct. 15-16). The 6,922-yard, par-72 course will feature a field of 15 teams, including familiar conference foes Appalachian State, Davidson, Elon, Furman, Western Carolina and Wofford.
The Eagles will land in new territory to open up the spring portion of the season, participating in the PING Arizona Intercollegiate (Jan. 28-29) in Tucson, Ariz. The tournament will pit several teams from the West, including a list of some of last year’s top 25 teams: Arizona State, Brigham Young, UCLA, UNLV and Tulsa.
Novelty turns into tradition as Georgia Southern plays the host school for the Schenkel E-Z-GO Invitational, Mar. 14-16 at the 6,962-yard, par-72 Forest Heights Country Club in Statesboro, Ga. The 29th installment of the tournament will feature a field of 18 schools: Alabama, UAB, Auburn, Augusta State, Boston College, Florida, Georgia Southern, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana State, Michigan State, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Notre Dame, South Carolina and Tennessee.
The Southern Conference Championship tournament will return to the Country Club of South Carolina in Florence, S.C., Apr. 20-22.
If the Eagles do not reclaim the SoCon title, they will still have a chance to continue into post-season play. A new NCAA rule this season dictates that to advance to post-season competition, teams that have not won an automatic bid as winners of their respective conferences must have at least a .500 wining percentage to be eligible for an at large bid.
Either way, with a rich history that includes 15 NCAA championship appearances and six conference titles, the Eagles have one goal in mind: the NCAA tournament.
- Category: Golf
- Published on Tuesday, 11 September 2007 00:22