Come Friday morning, some of the top collegiate golfers in the country will be in Statesboro as Forest Heights Country Club will be the site for the 42nd annual Schenkel Invitational.
13 of the teams coming this week are ranked among the top 100 in the country and six individuals rank among the top 100 in the NCAA Division-1.
Georgia Southern will be hosting the tournament — as always — and has won the tournament twice, including taking the 2019 title. Last year the Eagles finished as runners up to N.C. State which ran away from the field, winning by 27 strokes. The Eagles are coming off a team title last week at the Colleton River Collegiate and feels the team is in good form entering the Schenkel.
“The team has done a great job of working hard and building from the winter through the spring and that is showing,” said Collins. “I’m proud of the team for getting the big win at Colleton River, and while that gives us confidence, we have a whole new set of teams and a new golf course in front of us this week.’
Eagle freshman Brantley Baker is among the golfers who will be making their first Schenkel start Friday. Baker is pretty familiar with the course at Forest Heights and is excited to get things underway after hearing what a great event it is from his older teammates.
“This is my first time playing and I just can’t wait to see what the atmosphere is about,” said Baker. “I’ve heard everybody comes out to watch and the whole community is in support of it. Coming off the win last week we are playing pretty solid and we have high hopes for this week.”
This will potentially be the last Schenkel for Eagle senior Ben Carr who placed 10th here last year. Carr is currently ranked ninth individually in the country and is hoping to go out with a bang.
“Playing here at the Schenkel with the crowds that come here definitely gets your adrenaline going,” said Carr. “It can be a good thing but in golf you want to keep things steady so you may start off a little pumped up but you’ve got to pace yourself. Sometimes I have to remind myself that its just golf because you want to do so well with the cross on hand. We sure appreciate all the support we get because that is what makes it so special.”
Collins knows with hosting a tournament comes the expectations that the Eagles win, or finish among the top teams, and while that is a lot to carry Collins feels the team knows how to handle it.
“There are definitely some outside expectations,” said Collins. “But if you don’t acknowledge those expectations then they aren’t there. We look at each week as an independent week from the one before and the one coming up. Every team coming in here has a goal of playing their best and winning this tournament and it’s our job to prepare harder and maybe get some lucky breaks along the way and do the best we can. That is all I ever ask of them.”
Kentucky makes its 22nd appearance, the most of any team in the field except for the host Eagles, and the Wildcats have played in the last 15. Furman plays in its 11th Schenkel and UAB is in its 10th. West Virginia and Wisconsin are making their first appearance, while Campbell (12th), Cincinnati (11th) and FGCU are playing in their second consecutive Schenkel. Middle Tennessee (7th) and College of Charleston (9th) also competed in the event last season.
The practice round for competitors is Thursday, and the first round of the tournament is scheduled for Friday with teams teeing off the first and 10th holes beginning at 9 a.m. The second round is slated for Saturday starting at 9 a.m., and the third and final round will begin at 8 a.m. Sunday. The trophy ceremony is expected to be at approximately 3 p.m. Sunday.