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Tee time
One of college golf's marquee events tees off for the 35th time at Forest Heights
031513 SCHENKEL 01 WEB
Georgia Southern's Scott Wolfes chips onto the 9th green during the first round of the Schenkel Invitational golf tournament at Forest Heights Country Club in this Friday, March 15, 2013, file photo. Wolfes finished the round with three straight birdies to tie for the sixth best score of the day at -2. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/file

Tournament Field
(Golfweek ranking)
Central Florida        (8)
Virginia            (11)
Alabama-Birmingham    (13)
Texas            (15)
Kentucky            (29)
North Florida        (53)
Georgia State        (56)
North Texas        (59)
Georgia Southern        (70)
Florida            (75)
Mississippi        (76)
Duke            (82)
N.C. State        (93)
College of Charleston    (108)
Maryland        (152)

    A pillar of the Georgia Southern sports calendar tees off for the 35th time today as the golf squad hosts the Schenkel Invitational at Forest Heights Country Club.
    Once again, Georgia Southern coach Larry Mays has assembled a solid field that sees 13 of the 15 schools currently ranked in the top-100 of the Golfweek ratings. Four of those squads are ranked in the top-30.
    “It’s great for our program that we have been able to grow this tournament into a marquee event,” Mays said. “Not only is it a great draw for recruiting, but we have a lot of solid teams who like this tournament and give us great competition every year.”
    This season, Texas — ranked No. 15 in the country — returns to Statesboro as a major contender. The Longhorns were national runner-up in 2012 after losing to Alabama and finished second to the Crimson Tide once more in last year’s Schenkel.
    Despite being the tournament host, the Eagles are still in search of their first team title.
    Georgia Southern has finished as tournament runner-up three times and has five top-5 results. Two Eagles — Jimmy Ellis (1973) and Richie Bryant (1989) — have been individual medalists at the Schenkel.
    “Hopefully this is the year for us,” senior golfer Will Evans said. “I know that we’re going to go out there expecting to win.”
    To win their first Schenkel, the Eagles will have to navigate the 6,962-yard course that has proven to be challenging in the past.
    Alabama blew away the tournament record in 2012 with a combined score of 47-under, but the winning team has failed to break par in five of the previous 15 tournaments.
    “It definitely helps that we get to play this course all the time,” Evans said. “But it’s always hard to say how things will turn out. Depending on the weather or where the pins are, you can shoot low or it can be a really
challenging course.”
    Fans taking in the action — which is free to the public — will be able to get a great view of the action from the area near the clubhouse deck and the putting green. From there, spectators can watch players teeing off on the first hole and will also have great views of players approaching the greens of the par-5 ninth and 18th holes.
    Georgia Southern has had plenty of strong showings so far this season.
    The Eagles have top-10 finishes in all seven of their previous tournaments and have been in the top half of the field in all but one competition.
    With the Southern Conference championships just over a month away, GSU feels like it is close to putting everything together.
    “What I really like is that we’ve had three or four guys finish in the top five individually,” Mays said. “We’ve seen that we have the ability to play very well. If we get everyone playing their best on the same weekend, I like our chances against top competition. I think that the Schenkel is as good a time as any for us to turn that corner.”

    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.