Earlier this year Georgia Southern golf coach Carter Collins had his players reach out to various alumni by writing them letters thanking them for what they have done for the Eagle golf program. Senior Ben Carr was given the name of Buddy Alexander who not only played and coached at Georgia Southern, but was also head coach at Florida where he helped the Gators to national prominence. That relationship has grown, and now Carr is one step away from having an opportunity to join Alexander as the only Eagle golfer to have won the U.S. Amateur.
Friday afternoon Carr capped off a whirlwind week by defeating Alex Price 2 and 1 in the U.S. Amateur quarterfinal match play segment of the week-long tournament being held at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus New Jersey.
“It was a lot of fun out there today, we had a great match,” said Carr. “I got up early and was 4-up through 11. He came back and I made a couple loose swings. I was in a pretty familiar position to where I was the past couple matches, but I was able to pull it together and make a couple nice swings to put things way on 17.”
Carr and Eagle teammate Brantley Baker both qualified for this year’s U.S. Am. After the first two rounds of stroke play the field is whittled down from over 200 players to just 64 for match play which began Wednesday. Players are then seeded 1-64 and as the 34 seed Carr was able to advance to Thursday with an impressive 7 and 5 victory over Jake Holbrook.
Thursday was a grueling 37-hole day for Carr which began in the morning where he defeated 63 seed Andrew Von Lossow 1-up. From there Carr had to turn around and play in the round of 16 where he knocked off 18 seed Nathan Franks on the ninetieth hole of play after the two players were tied through 18 holes.
“I was excited about getting through to match play,” said Carr. “I didn’t feel I played all that great but neither did the guys I was playing with Thursday. It was really a gritty day and I was fortunate to beat two really good players.”
Carr was appreciative of the number of Eagle fans who made the trip to N.J. as he said they helped him feel like he was playing in the Schenkel again. He also credits his caddie and friend former PGA Tour member Willy Wilcox for helping him this week as well.
“It was awesome to see familiar faces out there today,” said Carr. “It seemed like so many people were pulling for me it just felt like the Schenkel. Me and Willy have played so much golf together. He knows me and my game and is a calming force as he keeps things light for me out there.”
Collins and Georgia Southern athletics director Jared Benko flew up Friday morning and were able to watch Carr’s quarterfinal match with Price. Collins was impressed, but not surprised with Carr’s success particularly in the match play portion of the event.
“I am so proud of Ben, and this is such a cool experience,” said Collins. “I really feel Ben thrives in a match play format. He has been able to play the past three years in the Sun Belt match play segment and has done well. This is a tough course and Ben has played on some tough courses this year. Ben really sealed the deal on the 17th hole with a perfect tee shot and a great approach on the par-5 hole. He then made a great putt to within a couple feet and Price conceded the hole after missing his birdie try.”
Hundreds of followers were out with all the groups on Friday including a good crowd of Georgia Southern fans with Carr. Collins feels Carr was prepared for this kind of atmosphere thanks to playing in front of crowds at the annual Schenkel Invitational and the NCAA Championships this year.
“Ben had a big lead but credit to Price for battling back,” said Collins. “I think the crowds and pressure didn’t really get to Ben as he’s played in these types of environments before. We are all so proud of him and look forward to seeing what he does this weekend.”
Carr says he has taken inspiration from his correspondence with Alexander and is trying his best to stay in the moment and not think about the fact that a win Saturday would put him in both the 2023 Masters and U.S Open.
“Coach Alexander has been great,” said Carr. He has texted me every day and really just says check. Just check one more day off as you can’t look ahead and have to stay in the moment. This has been so much fun and I really don’t want it to end. I am trying to just stay in the moment the best I can and I am looking forward to tomorrow.”
Carr will tee off Saturday against Derek Hitchner. Coverage for the U.S. Amateur can be seen live Saturday and Sunday on The Golf Channel.