A home course advantage didn’t help Georgia Southern much as the Eagles struggled to a 9-over par showing in the first day of competition at the 34th annual Schenkel Invitational on Friday at Forest Heights Country Club.
The Eagles sit in a tie for 11th place in the 15-team field. Defending national champion Texas sits atop the leaderboard at 8-under with defending Schenkel champion Alabama two strokes back. Florida (-3) was the only other team to break par on the day.
Georgia Southern started its day pretty well and was in fourth place at 2-over as the five-man team of Scott Wolfes, Charlie Martin, Hayden Anderson, Will Evans and Blake Olson made the turn, but things went south for the Eagles on the back nine. Anderson began the day with nine consecutive pars, but then struggled through three double-bogeys on his way to carding a 79 which was dropped as only the best four scores for each team are counted.
The 10th hole dealt a double bogey to Martin — who shot a 2-over 74 — and Olson carded three bogeys over his final nine holes on the way to a 76.
“Just too many double bogeys out there,” GSU coach Larry Mays said. “Too many mistakes. We didn’t do anything that was awful, but we just had too many mistakes that piled up on us.”
Flirting with the bottom of the leaderboard, Wolfes finished strong. The sophomore birdied his final three holes to finish with a 70 — the only sub-par round of the day for Georgia Southern.
With two full rounds to play, the Eagles are hoping to build some momentum off of Wolfes’ hot finish.
“We didn’t have quite the start that we wanted, but we’ve got to put that behind us,” Mays said. “The good news is that there aren’t a lot of teams that are under par or really pulling away. If we can correct all of those mistakes from today, we can get right back into it.”
Aside from Wolfes, the brightest spot of the day for the Eagles came from one of its golfers competing for the individual title. Matt Mierzejewski fired an even-par 72. Among individual competitors, Mierzejewski is tied for the lead with Nick McLaughlin of Virginia.
GSU’s Caleb Morris fired a 73 in individual play to sit just one stroke off of the lead.
It wasn’t the most ideal start for the Eagles, but they remain confident in their ability to contend in one of the most competitive and prestigious regular season tournaments in the country.
“I’m still excited about our chances,” Mays said. “Things might get a little windy on Saturday, but the course is in great shape and it’s great weather to play in. If we can bounce back and play a little bit better, I think we’ll be in good shape.”
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.