After a thrilling, come from behind victory four weeks ago at the Southern Conference championships, the Georgia Southern golf team gets back into swing today as the Eagles compete in the Florida Regional of the NCAA Championships at the Golden Ocala Golf Club in Ocala, Florida.
After last season’s run to the finals of the NCAA Championships, GSU came into the 2010-11 season flying high, but hit some bumps in the road. The Eagles struggled through much of the season, but found their stride just in time to earn an automatic bid to the regional round with their SoCon title.
"We knew that we had a lot of talent," said GSU coach Larry Mays. "It was just a matter of getting it all to come together. We didn’t have awful tournaments, but there would be times when we only had one or two good days or only a few of our guys would post good scores on a given day.
"Hopefully, our performance at the conference tournament will get it turned around. We finally put it all together and I guess that was the best time to do it."
The regional will be held from today through Saturday with all 14 competing schools sending five golfers onto the course each day. The lowest four individual rounds for each day will count towards each school’s total for the day.
At the conclusion of play Saturday, the top five schools will join the qualifying schools from the other five regional tournaments in the national championships to be held May 31-June 5 at Karsten Creek in Stillwater, Okla.
Because of their early struggles, Georgia Southern was assigned a No. 13 seed in the Florida regional field of 14. However, the low seed —while a likely tough draw for teams in other sports — isn’t fazing the Eagles much.
"Fortunately, it’s a little different for us," said Mays. "Just because of our seed, we don’t have to play man-to-man with a top seeded team. We just have to go out and battle the course. If we can do that better than the other teams, that’s all we need."
That in itself will be a tall order as the Golden Ocala Golf Club poses a challenge to all teams in the field.
Though not incredibly long — the course measures just under 7,000 yards — the Golden Ocala still presents many obstacles to overcome on the way to a good round.
"Being a different course is one challenge," said Mays. "Logan (Blondell) has played it once, but our practice round was the first time everyone else has seen it.
"The course kind of shifts from tight and narrow to open and then back into some holes that have a lot of trees. Players that can adjust to the changing views will have the best success."
Georgia Southern will be looking for a repeat of its regional performance from 2010 — perhaps without as much drama.
Last season, the Eagles were mired in the middle of the pack before a great final round from all members of the team spurred GSU into fourth place and gave the Eagles a spot in the national championship.
This year, three players — Blondell, Florian Sander and Matt Deal — return to regional competition and will be joined by Lewis Gruber and Hayden Anderson.
Tee time for the Eagles is 9:40 a.m.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.