ATLANTA – After a strong performance at the Southern Conference championship, the Georgia Southern golf team is set to compete as the No. 10 seed in the NCAA Southeast Regional, which begins today and will run through Saturday at the Capital City Crabapple Golf Club in Alpharetta.
Joining the Eagles in the regional will be 13 other teams, four of which – Oklahoma St. (1), Arizona State (13), Georgia Tech (16) and Clemson (19) – are among the Top-20 in the national rankings.
While there will be plenty of talent on the course, GSU coach Larry Mays is optimistic about the Eagles’ chances.
“It’s a good field, but every field is going to be good when you get to this time of year,” said Mays. “The nice part about golf is that you don’t have to tackle anyone or take anyone out. If we take care of our business on the course, we’ll take care of ourselves.”
The high rankings of some of the teams in the field may be impressive, but it’s also something that the Eagles are prepared to handle.
“This isn’t like some other sports where lower ranked teams don’t have a chance,” said Mays. “Any of the top 75 teams in the country can beat anyone on any given day. It’s just a matter of posting good scores consistently.”
Leading the way in GSU’s efforts to post those low scores will be seniors Ryan Zabroske and Spence Fulford. Zabroske leads all Eagles this season with a scoring average of 72.33 while Fulford has the lowest round on the year – a 9-under 63 at the SpringHill Suites Intercollegiate in September.
Both will need to be in top form for a GSU squad that isn’t as seasoned as its opponents.
“Spence and Logan (Blondell) are our only guys with experience in a regional,” said Mays. “We lost four of our top six from last year, so to get this kind of productivity from guys who hadn’t done that throughout their career has been a very good thing.”
Speaking of experience, Zabroske is the only Eagle with any experience on the par-70, 7,182-yard layout at the Crabapple course. Even with a few rounds under his belt, Zabroske will take the same steps as his teammates in preparing.
“You want to get a feel around the greens,” said Zabroske. “We practice chipping and putting to areas where we think the holes will be. You hit tee balls and iron shots, but those shots change throughout the round, so you mainly focus around the short game areas.”
The Eagles will try to build on their solid showing at the Southern Conference championships, where GSU place second with a cumulative score of just 1-over par.
There will be a very familiar face in the crowd as SoCon champion Furman, which ran away with the conference title by turning in a 15-under performance, is also in this weekend’s field.
“(Furman) played great,” said Mays of the Paladins’ play four weeks ago. “It seemed like they were making everything. We hit it right there with them, but everything seemed to go their way. That’s not to take anything away from them. They played well and had their week, maybe now we’ll have ours.”
Georgia Southern tees off at 9:10 a.m. this morning in the first round. The Eagles’ five golfers will start on the 10th tee – along with an opponent from Coastal Carolina and South Alabama – with each threesome from the schools teeing off in 10-minute increments.
After each round, the standings will determine tee times and playing groups for the next day.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.