One of the sure signs that spring has arrived in Statesboro is the sharp, metallic ping of a driver launching a golf ball.
Back for the 41st time, the Schenkel Invitational will once again feature top-level collegiate golf roaming the fairways of Forest Heights Country Club from Friday until Sunday. A total of 12 teams from around the country — as well as a bevy of individual competitors — will take aim at the tournament title in what is always a highlight on the golf calendar.
“This is always an exciting week for our program,” GS coach Carter Collins said. “The Schenkel always has a strong field and we’re grateful to those who put this on every year that we have a tournament to call our own.”
When the Eagles tee it up on Friday, they’ll be hunting a second consecutive win after claiming a victory at Colleton River two weeks ago. They’ll also be in contention for a second straight Schenkel championship after winning the event for just the second time last spring.
While Georgia Southern is the defending champion, not much thought is being given to last year.
“We don’t look at it as defending our title,” Collins said. “There’s nothing to defend. We have last year, no matter what. That’s something we get to keep, but now it’s up to us to go out and compete to win again this year.”
The Schenkel usually serves as a litmus test for the Georgia Southern squad. Held with about a month to go before the conference championships, the annual event provides the team with plenty of motivation to elevate its game and finish strong.
A trip to Statesboro is also a must for many teams who frequent the tournament field. Not only is the competition fierce, but the scores of fans lining fairways — especially on the finishing stretch of holes — provides pressure, intensity, and even some fun that is unique to college golf.
The crowds tailgating the final three holes aren’t quite on the level of the PGA’s annual trek to Scottsdale and its infamous 16th hole, but the buzz throughout the finishing push continues to grow and has caught the attention of everyone on the course.
“I think everyone loves it,” Collins said. “We have such great support from our fans and our community. It’s definitely a little louder and a little more crowded that a lot of events we play. That’s what makes this such a special event that we’re glad to call our own.”
Play is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. on Friday, with threesomes starting off of split tees. Starting groupings will be adjusted according to overall team standings before the start of each round.