As many sports at Georgia Southern are trying to take baby steps back towards normalcy, golf has a leg up on things. Due to the relatively isolated nature of the game and how it is played, golf has been able to get itself restarted quickly even as fears and restrictions concerning the Covid-19 pandemic continue to plague the country.
Keeping to social distancing and other public health guidelines, Georgia Southern men’s golf coach Carter Collins and five of his players participated in the Golden Isles Invitational last weekend at Brunswick Country Club.
In a 60-man field packed with talent, the Eagles put on quite the show. Collins finished in third place, two strokes off the pace at 14-under. Colin Bowles, Jake Maples and Mason Williams all tied for fourth at 12-under while Wilson Andress and Brett Barron were one more stroke back at 11-under.
“It was great to see all of our guys play so well,” Collins said. “We talk about competitive rust. These guys have been playing a lot recently, but playing with friends isn’t quite the same as being in a tournament environment. I was really happy to see how they responded in an event that had a lot of talent.”
Bowles was competing in his sophomore season for Georgia Southern before the season was called off due to the pandemic just a day shy of the Eagles teeing off and hosting the Schenkel Invitational at Forest Heights Country Club. Bowles had emerged as a leader on a very talented GS squad before the shutdown and was glad to be back in a competitive environment.
“I had a double (bogey) on my first hole and was a little nervous,” Bowles said. “But I’d rather double the first hole of a tournament than the last one. It was nice to have that pressure and competitiveness again. I was joking with Jake (Maples) about it during the tournament. It had been a while since I had to putt out a 2-3 footer. It was fun to have that pressure on again.”
The summer is usually filled with individual tournaments for Eagle golfers, but the competition has mostly been on hold since the spring. With the Golden Isles Invitational going off without a hitch and the PGA tour picking up steam in its return, golfers remain hopeful that their sport will see a quick and, hopefully, uneventful return from its brief hiatus.
More importantly for Collins and his team, this past weekend seems to show that the Eagles are ready to get back to business as soon as the NCAA golf schedule resumes.
“It was great to see everyone really grinding and playing well,” Collins said.
“Everyone in the tournament played well and I know the other guys on the team have also been playing some really good golf,” Bowles said. “With the guys coming back and the guys coming in this season, it’s going to be really competitive and really fun.”
Collins fell short of grabbing the tournament title which would have added to an already extensive trophy collection for the GS coach. Collins was adamant that he was pulling for his players to win and that he just had a good few days on the course, but his players know that Collins is every bit the same competitor that they are when he is in a tournament field.
“He loves to talk about how he’s old and no good,” Bowles said. “We thought he might have dropped out because no one saw him before the first round. Then he shows up a few minutes before his tee time and puts up a great score. We knew he would be tough to beat.”