The Georgia Southern men’s golf team makes a return to the NCAA Championships this week as they officially get things underway Friday in Scottsdale AZ as one of 30 teams who advanced from the NCAA Regionals.
The Eagles advanced after being the No. 5 team in the New Haven Connecticut Regional which was played at the Yale University golf course. The Eagles rode a school record setting performance shooting 10 under par on the opening day and have been one of the Top-25 teams in the country throughout the spring.
“We have a good balance of senior leaders and freshmen who have shown all year they aren’t scared of the big moments,” said Eagle coach Carter Collins. “Our team looks forward to opportunities to play in the biggest events. I feel we gained some momentum coming out of regionals. I feel everyone in this field has a great resume and there aren’t any Cinderellas in the field.”
Helping to pace the Eagles in New Haven was Mason Williams who finished tied for sixth place individually. This will be Williams first trip to the national championship and he is excited to get things underway.
“We are all really looking forward to this so much,” said Williams. “I feel like we carry that blue collar mentality onto the golf course with us. We don’t play a conference schedule like many of the other sports at Georgia Southern so we are used to playing these same teams we are going up against this week. The course will be a little different than what we are used to but that is a challenge we are looking forward to. We play a lot of different courses throughout the year so we aren’t just playing the same courses week in and week out.”
Eagle senior Ben Carr is the only member on this year’s team to have advanced to the NCAA Championships as he went as a freshman. The experience will be a lot different this time around for the senior who at this stage in his career is not at all intimidated by the rest of the field.
“I was a little more starstruck the last time I played in the NCAA Championships,” said Carr. The difference is now I feel like I belong here. We are excited about the challenge and I have tried my best to tell the other guys what it will be like to play in this. The biggest thing this week is to not be overcome by the moment. I think we have proven ourselves all year and have beaten a lot of the teams so we go in confident.”
The Eagles will be getting their first taste of desert golf, which is a lot different than what they typically play on. Collins was able to get the Eagles on a couple of nearby sand-based courses to try his best to give them an idea of what they will face, but he feels the team is very good at adapting to the course they play on.
“It requires a little more accuracy and a little more creativity,” said Collins. “They don’t have pine straw and they don’t have rough it’s more sand, rocks and cactus. The fairways are very lush and firm. The greens are also firm which we aren’t used to at this time of year. There is a little more spring in the greens here, where we are more used to the ball sitting pretty close to where it lands. We played a couple practice rounds around here and play our official practice round at Grayhawk Thursday.”
Only 17 of the top 25 teams in the nation advanced to the national championship, with four top-20 teams missing out. The ranked teams who failed to advance are Washington (9), Notre Dame (15), Illinois (17), LSU (19), Tennessee (22), Clemson (23), New Mexico (24) and Purdue (25).
Georgia Southern (47) is technically the third lowest team to advance to the National Championship with only BYU (49) and Utah (53) ranked higher. Rankings take into consideration the fall season as well where the Eagles struggled. This spring the Eagles were just outside the top 20 according to Collins.
“The key this week will be for this team to keep doing what they have done all year,” said Collins. “We need to keep our head down and keep working and not worry about what is going on around us. It going to be challenging but we are excited to prove we belong out here.”
The Eagles will tee off Friday with Utah and the College of Charleston beginning at 8:00 a.m. PT. The 2022 NCAA Div. I Men’s Golf National Championship will be held at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona, May 27-June 1. Coverage begins Monday on The Golf Channel.