The Georgia Southern men’s golf team played three solid rounds in the NCAA regionals in Salem South Carolina, but in the end, they ended up falling one shot short of advancing to a playoff as the season came to a close and the careers of four seniors who have spent almost six years together.
“The seniors mean the world to me and they moved this program forward and left behind a legacy we are forever grateful for,” said Eagle coach Carter Collins. “This one will sting for a while. We wanted a chance to compete for a national championship, not just for this team but for all the supporters of the Georgia Southern golf program out there. We came up short, but that is not a measurement of the effort and how hard they fought all week. They played some fantastic golf.”
After an up-and-down start to the final day, the Eagles caught fire on their second nine holes. A birdie on the eighth hole by Mason Williams put the Eagles at 30 under par and six shots clear of the closest competition.
The Eagles came to their 18th hole, which was the 600-yard par five, and happened to be playing as one of the toughest hole on the course that day. The first three players were able to come through with par. Williams and Wilson Andress finished things up in unfortunately similar fashion as they both left their third shots to the left side of the green and were left with difficult downhill shots to try and get themselves in a position for par.
Both just missed their par putts, and the Eagles finished at 28 under par. While this was going on Clemson, Texas A&M and San Diego State were all finishing up on the easier back nine. The Eagles turned their attention to the 18th screen and on their phones to find out how the other three teams were closing.
The Eagles were tied with Clemson until their final player whose score counted - Kian Rose - was able to get up and down for birdie from about 30 yards away, ending the Eagles chances.
“We had some adversity in our first nine holes and it looked like things were slipping away,” Collins said. “They responded like they have all year by fighting and clawing and making some big eagle and birdie putts. Mason birdied eight to give us a chance, Wilson made a birdie on six, and Parker made a birdie on six. They played well for three days and just came up a shot short.”
Texas A&M was able to force a playoff for the fifth and final spot in the NCAA championships as Sam Bennett came through with a birdie capping a round of seven under par which included birdies on four of his last five holes. Bennett recently made headlines with his impressive run as an amateur at the Masters Tournament this past April.
Collins was emotional afterward and reflecting on the careers of the seniors who have been part of the program for nearly 6 years
“These guys have done more for me than I have for them,” said Collins. “My appreciation for them in immeasurable. I will always be there for them no matter what.”
While the Eagles will miss their three senior standouts, he is excited about the future, especially after the way Brantley Baker and Parker Claxton played all season long including at the Sun Belt tournament and the NCAAs.”
The Eagles finished Monday in sixth place at -9 as a team. The consistency continued on Tuesday as another round of -9 left them in sixth place. Sunday the Eales shot -10 and ended in seventh place as the Top-5 teams advanced to Arizona for the NCAA Championships. Georgia Tech, Arkansas, North Carolina, New Mexico and Texas A&M all advanced out of the Salem Regional. Texas A&M defeated Clemson in a playoff for the final spot.
Eagle freshman Parker Claxton led the way Wednesday with a 68. Ben Carr, Williams and Wilson Andress all shot 70 and Brantley Baker fired an even par 72. Andress led the Eagles individually in the Regional finishing tied for 14th. Claxton tied for 27th, Williams tied for 34th, Carr tied for 48th and Baker tied for 52nd.