The Georgia Southern football team might be stealing the headlines around campus with its rise to the top of the coaches poll, but another group of Eagles are flying just as high this fall.
The GSU golf team finished last season with a strong showing in the Southern Conferences championships and has come sprinting out of the gate in the 2012-13 campaign.
The Eagles put in good performances at Kiawah Island and Nashville to begin the season before catching fire. Wins at the AutoTrader Collegiate Classic and the ODU/OBX Intercollegiate mark the first back-to-back tournament wins for the Eagles since 1982 and has boosted them to No. 50 in the country in the latest Golfweek rankings.
"I’m really pleased with how we’ve been playing lately," said GSU coach Larry Mays. "We struggled a little in our first tournament of the year, but we’ve been getting better as we’ve gone along. We’ve had seven or eight individual top-10 finishes, which is what we really like to see. When we do that, those tournament wins will happen."
In the AutoTrader Classic, the Eagles stared down teams like fifth-ranked Georgia in winning the tournament by seven strokes. At the ODU/OBX, Georgia Southern led wire-to-wire against the rest of the 18-team field and ran away with things. The Eagles’ total score of 10-under was good for the only under par performance of the week and a 12-stroke victory.
Most impressive about the Eagles’ performances has been the fact that they are still a very young squad. The 11-man roster features just one senior while a pair of sophomores — Scott Wolfes and Charlie Martin — have consistently led the way.
"We were even younger last season," said Mays. "We stubbed our toe a little bit last season, but we’ve grown. We’re stressing patience with our guys. You aren’t going to hit 18 holes worth of good shots, but when bad shots happen, we aren’t dwelling on them. We’re getting over it and moving on."
As the season progresses, the Eagles welcome the promise of tougher competition. The schedule is full of tournaments that consistently draw top-25 talent, the highlight of which will be the Schenkel Invitational hosted by GSU at Forest Heights Country Club March 15-17.
In a talented Southern Conference — and with many schools around the southeast making up the brunt of the national rankings — the Eagles will have to keep up their high level of play to stay in contention each week.
"It’s a little different than some other sports when we’re paired up with highly-ranked teams," said Mays. "We don’t have to tackle anyone or avoid linebackers, which I guess is nice. But sometimes a team or an individual from another school will get hot. We just have to keep our heads down and concentrate on our game."
Georgia Southern has one event remaining on its fall schedule, and with the cooler weather quickly moving in, the Eagles couldn’t have picked a better way to finish out the first half of the season.
From Nov. 5-7, the Eagles will be in Hawaii for the Warrior Wave Invitational hosted by the University of Hawaii.
"Every few years, we try to do something nice like this for the guys," said Mays. "It’ll be a great experience, but it’s also another opportunity for us. I’d love it if we can go out there and put up another good performance heading into the winter."
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.