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Georgia Southern Golf set to tee off spring portion of season
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The Georgia Southern men’s golf team has a long tradition of guiding players through the program, watching them grow and succeed along the way.

Feb. 6-7, the team will tee off with the second iteration of another near and dear aspect of the program that is sure to become a tradition of its own.

Beginning Sunday and playing through Monday, the Eagles will host a handful of formidable programs in a 56-hole individual tournament at the Georgia Southern University Golf Course. The event enters its fourth season and — for a second year — will carry the title of the ‘Thomas Sharkey Individual Collegiate’. 

The event’s namesake comes from a Georgia Southern golfer who was with the team from 2009-11 before tragically passing away during a house fire in his native Helensburgh, Scotland prior to his junior season with the Eagles. Since his passing, Sharkey’s memory has remained closely tied to the program. A Scottish flag flies proudly at all times from the Bennett-Ramsey Golf Center, a flag decal is affixed to the Eagles’ team traveling van and Sharkey’s locker remains in perpetuity as a constant presence with every GS team since his passing.

In a touching moment for the program, the Eagles won the Schenkel Invitational - which they host each March - in 2014 for the first time in program history in what would have been Sharkey’s senior season. It just so happened that Georgia Southern began the fall portion of the 2014-15 season in Scotland, with both the team and the championship trophy paying Sharkey’s mother a visit.

“The guys on the last few teams never knew Sharkey, but I don’t think you’d ever be able to tell,” GS coach Carter Collins said. “They see his locker every day and know what it’s all about. There are still stories about him that get told every year to our guys. Thomas is always going to be a part of our team.”

Collins also thanked the Georgia Southern administration for one final touch put on Sharkey's legacy.

While his locker always stands ready to go, it got one final addition this season. Sharkey will have to fill his ongoing spot on the Eagles' roster as a post-grad player as he now has a posthumous diploma awarded in his memory.

As for the 2021-22 squad, this weekend offers a chance to dive headfirst into the spring portion of the season.

With the advantage of playing in the friendly confines of Statesboro, everyone on the Eagles’ roster will be in action, with the exceptions of Ben Carr and Lindsey Cordell, who will be competing in the prestigious Jones Cup.

“The biggest concern is knocking off the competitive rust,” Collins said. “Our guys have been working extremely hard in the weight room and on the course during the break, but it’s always a little bit different when you’re back in an actual tournament. 

“It’s great that all of our guys will get a chance to compete. It’s nice to have a little more knowledge with it being at our house, but this is a tough course that is going to challenge everyone — our guys included.”

Georgia Southern has been up to the challenge in each individual event it has held so far. The Eagles have a pair of victories and a second place finish to show in the event's young history.

The GSU course isn't as long as most NCAA championship events, but the layout offers some quirky hole layouts and demanding green complexes that can take a heavy toll on players that don't place drives in the correct spot on the fairway, or who land on the wrong tier of a putting surface.

As this season's Eagles strive for glory, the program's ability to churn out talent that is ready for the next level is also serving as a means to push players to progress.

Steven Fisk was a stalwart for the team during his run at Georgia Southern. He finished second in the individual competition at the 2019 NCAA championships and was a key cog in the Eagles re-establishing themselves as a conference power when they made the jump from the Southern Conference to the Sun Belt. 

Some of this season's Eagles were teammates of Fisk, while many played under him as he served as an assistant coach for two years.

Now striving to earn his PGA Tour card and playing many pro events around the region, he continues to help the team as he has become a goal to chase.

"A lot of guys have the dream to play professionaly," Collins said. "It's a huge help to have a guy like Steven who is living that dream and who makes himself available for our guys to talk to and learn from. He's in that individual grind every week now and that's what our guys get a chance to experience this week."