Georgia Southern golf coach Carter Collins isn't a big believer in momentum. Earlier this week Collins said the Eagles win at Colleton River last week may have given the team some confidence but this week’s Schenkel is a different course with different teams.
While that may be true, the current result looks a lot like last week. The Eagles blistered the course at Forest Heights Country Club in Friday’s opening round of the 42nd annual Schenkel Invitational and are currently 10 strokes ahead of their nearest competitor.
Georgia Southern got some impressive scores from a couple of Schenkel first timers and shot 15 under par Friday. The Eagles currently hold a 10-shot advantage over Notre Dame, West Virgina and Cincinnati who are all tied at -5.
“This is the position everyone wants to be heading into the weekend,” said Collins. “This is a special team, and this is a special crowd out here at the Schenkel. The community is doing some great things out here this week and the crowds have been electric. Up and down every hole people are supporting us and supporting the tournament. We could feel their energy and it was great to feed off that today.”
The Eagles were led Friday by freshman Brantley Baker who shot a 5 under 67 and is currently tied for second individually with Davis Chatfield of Notre Dame.
“I felt really good and played solid all day,” said Baker. “I made a couple key putts coming down the stretch for par and birdie and had a really good stretch in the middle of my round.”
That stretch saw Baker birdie six of seven holes. Baker birdied six and seven and then made par on the eighth hole. He then finished his front nine with a birdie on number nine and then birdied the extremely difficult 10th followed by birdies at 11 and 12 getting a loud roar from the crowd after his birdie on 12.
“This tournament really has lived up to the expectations with what I heard about it,” said Baker. “It was unbelievable and the crowds were great. It’s the best tournament I have ever played in.”
Baker led the way with a 67, followed by senior Mason Williams with a 68 which included an impressive 15-foot eagle putt on the ninth hole. Senior Ben Carr came through with a bogey-free round of 69, and freshman Hogan Ingram matched Carr’s 69 in his first Schenkel.
“Brantley is having a great year and is improving check point to check point,” said Collins. “It takes a whole team effort though to do what we did today. Mason’s eagle on nine was great to hear the roar of the crowd. It may not be Augusta but it was loud and fun out there. It’s a team event and even though Wilson Andress struggled a little today his teammates picked him up. Wilson is an awesome player and I know he will be there the rest of the way.”
With inclement weather in the forecast for Saturday Collins knows the tournament is far from over and knows the team has to keep grinding like they did Friday in order to bring home their third Schenkel title.
“We understand there is a long way to go and every day is a new day,” said Collins. “We have to do a good job of forgetting about today and be ready and hungry Saturday and Sunday with a chip on our shoulder. This team has done a great job of doing that all year and I wouldn’t be surprised if they do it again.”
Kieron van Wyk of the College of Charleston is currently leading the individual scoring after a bogey-free six under 66 on Friday. The lowest round for a Georgia Southern golfer not competing in the team competition is Luke Dasher who shot an even par 72 and is tied for 28th place. The Eagles are scheduled to tee off Saturday at Forest Heights starting at 10:30 on the first hole alongside Notre Dame and West Virginia.
For those fans who were looking for the Eagles in their customary blue attire Friday they were actually wearing pink with pink ribbons on their bags and hats as well to honor one of their biggest fans.
“Dr. Richard Rogers has always been one of our biggest supporters,” said Collins. “He is going through breast cancer and this is our way to show our support for him. He hasn’t been able to travel with us near as much as he used to so this is a way for Dr. Rogers to be with us on the road and at home. We feel him when we wear it and he is our good luck charm and we are proud to wear the pick for him.”