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Eagles fall just short at Schenkel
Florida's Andy Zhang, left, pumps his fist after making a birdie on 18 as Georgia Southern's Archer Price and head coach Carter Collins look on during the third round of the Schenkel Invitaional at Forest Heights Country Club Sunday.

    The Georgia Southern men’s golf team woke up Sunday morning with a 7-stroke lead as it prepared for the final round of action at the Schenkel Invitational tournament at Forest heights Country Club.
    With two of the nation’s top teams in Florida and Vanderbilt hot on their heels, a rough start on Sunday brought the Eagles right back to the pack. Georgia Southern dug in and fought hard throughout the day, ultimately missing out on a second Schenkel title in program history, but recording a second place finish and proving that it can hang around with any squad.
    Georgia Southern shot 4-over as a team on Sunday. The score wasn’t a bad one, but the Gators stayed hot all day and went 6-under. In the end, Florida sat at 18-under par, with the Eagles finishing at 16-under. Top-ranked Vanderbilt finished third after a 15-under showing.
    A lost lead on the final day stung, but collegiate golf is about more than final placings in each tournament. And the Schenkel gave the Eagles plenty to be optimistic about.
    “"We just took two of the best teams in the country to the wire and made them do everything they could to beat us,” GS coach Carter Collins said. “That's what I'm most proud of with these guys and really shows the progress we've made this season.”
    The vast majority of the day saw the Eagles play level with Florida and Vanderbilt as all three were grouped together for the final round. Unfortunately, a rough start gave up enough ground for both competitors to pounce and put the pressure on throughout the rest of the morning and afternoon.
    The five golfers in the Eagles’ starting lineup played the first four holes in a combined 8-over par. Brett Barron shot 67 on Friday and 66 on Saturday to hold the inside track on the honor of individual medalist, but the freshman carded a 45 on the front nine — after shooting 31 in each of the first two days — leaving Cody O’Toole, Steven Fisk, Archer Price and Jake Storey with the task of posting the final four Sunday scores for Georgia Southern.
    Price eagled the challenging par-5 12th hole and Storey chipped in for an eagle on the par-5 18th, but it wasn’t quite enough to hold off a Gator squad that racked up 18 birdies from its four qualifying golfers on Sunday.
    And as gratifying as a Schenkel win would have been for the Eagles, there would have been more important tournaments to come, regardless of the outcome.
    Georgia Southern has only a few days to rest and practice before shipping out to Greenville, S.C. to take on old SoCon rival and another stout field in the Furman Intercollegiate.
    “It's a quick turnaround, and it's important to take the confidence and all the great things we learned from this week and put them to work this upcoming week,” Collins said. “The field is good and tough and it's a course we've never played at. So it's another challenge we're looking forward to."
    From there, the Eagles will compete in a tournament hosted by Auburn in Gastonia, N.C. before teeing things up in the Sun Belt championships — scheduled for April 23-26 in Destin, Fla.

    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.