Ooltewah, TN – It wasn’t the best ending, but it was still a great ride.
The Georgia Southern golf team had its season come to an end Thursday afternoon at the 2010 NCAA Championships. The Eagles struggled throughout the final two rounds, finishing in 30th place at 42-over par, but a rough finish didn’t spoil what was a great run to the ultimate level of competition.
“Obviously, we wanted to perform a little better,” said GSU coach Larry Mays. “We had a tough time over the last round or so, but I’m still very proud of our guys.”
The Eagles were not alone in their struggles.
The Honors Course has proven to be a very tough test for even the most skilled golfers in the nation, and it was able to take its toll on many throughout the first three days of stroke play.
“It was definitely one of the toughest courses I’ve ever played,” said Florian Sander. “I enjoyed playing it, but it was demanding. The course was very long, and it was very tight with a lot of trees and water along the fairways. Any time that I couldn’t keep my drives straight, I wound up in a lot of trouble.”
The rest of the Eagles shared a similar plight.
Sander’s 4-over 76 was GSU’s best round during play Thursday, and the Eagles could not qualify for the final match play portion of the national championship.
As if the course wasn’t enough of a test, Mother Nature also took a toll on the Eagles.
A long weather delay Wednesday afternoon forced GSU to play on a wet and sloppy course, and the NCAA’s decision to play until 8:50 p.m. left many players scrambling to pick out flags and read putts in near darkness.
“It made things pretty difficult,” said Mays. “We really seemed to get a rough break with the weather and our tee times. That’s not an excuse though. There were plenty of other teams that had to deal with it, and we just didn’t respond as well.”
Wednesday’s extended play kept GSU out of its hotel until nearly 11 p.m. and delayed GSU from getting to sleep until midnight.
With a handful of holes in the second round remaining to be played Thursday morning, the Eagles had a 5 a.m. wake-up call in order to finish off the remaining holes, followed by tee times starting at 9 a.m. for the final round of stroke play.
Extra holes and temperatures reaching the 90’s finally started to take a toll, and the Eagles began to wilt.
“They gave it all they had, but we just seemed to run out of gas,” said Mays. “It would have been nice to do a little better, but they gave it a good run and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
Recent PING All-Region selection Ryan Zabroske and Spence Fulford – low scorer for GSU at the Honors Course – each competed in their final round as Eagles.
“It’s a little disappointing that we didn’t play better,” said Fulford. “Still, we set goals at the beginning of the season to compete for a conference title, to do well at the regional, and to make it to the national championship. It may not have ended perfectly, but to finish the season at the highest level and at the final tournament… You can’t ask for much more than that.”
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.