The Georgia Southern Eagle golf team had to sweat things out a little down the stretch, but ultimately they were able to finish fifth in Wednesday’s final round of the NCAA Regionals in New Haven, Conn. With that finish, the Eagles advance to the national finals for the second time in the last three seasons.
“We are excited and just feel a great sense of accomplishment after this week,” said coach Carter Collins. “Coming into the day there was a little added stress knowing there was a trip to Arizona for the national championships on the line. They did a great job blocking a lot of that out and focusing on one shot and one hole at a time. We had to finish on a stretch of tough holes with the wind blowing about 20 miles per hour, but our guys maintained their composure and made some clutch putts and shots to get it done.”
With the top four spots pretty much secured early in the day, the Eagles finished their round at about 1:30 p.m. and then had to wait and see how the University of Virginia would complete its round. The Cavaliers were only a couple strokes off the Eagles' pace and two of their final three holes were par-5s. The Cavs were unable to take advantage and the Eagles were able to celebrate.
“There was a scoring malfunction and a triple bogey on one of the Virginia players' cards was turned in as a par,” said Collins. “That made things appear to be a lot closer than they were. We had a few players go over and watch Virginia finish but they were respectful and when we realized we had won they didn’t celebrate over there and came back so we could all be together.”
Collins credits the Eagles' great start for helping to secure the victory. Georgia Southern shot a school record for an NCAA regional with a round of 10-under par.
“There is no doubt us getting out to that hot start really helped us secure this,” said Collins. “We really took advantage of the scoring opportunities with the conditions being a lot easier that day. When you can do what we did you put yourself in a great position and when the wind picked up to 15-20 miles per hour the past few days, we were able to hold on.”
Leading the way for the Eagles was Mason Williams who finished at 5-under par and tied for sixth place. Ben Carr tied for 16th and shot even par Wednesday, as did freshman Brantley Baker.
“Mason played incredible golf and is a phenomenal golfer,” said Collins. “What he put on display this week is some of the best golf he has played all year. Ben has had an incredible season as well with only about one finish outside of the Top-20. Ben and Mason have taken this team to a high place this year and a lot of the accolades the team has earned is because of them.”
The players are all excited about heading to the NCAA Championships and the fact that they were able to hang on and earn a Top-5 spot in the regionals in some pretty tough conditions.
“It is awesome and we are just so happy it ended the way it did,” said Mason Williams. “I got off to a really good start the first round and played pretty good but I’m so happy our team was able to hang in there and get it done. It was a little stressful at the end with the scoring incident making it look closer than it was, but this is such a great feeling and we are all looking forward to heading to Arizona.”
“The wind was blowing pretty hard the past couple days but I feel like we were really focused,” said Eagle freshman Hogan Ingram. “We played great and showed a lot of resilience. We feel we still have a lot of room to improve and we hope to do that in Arizona.”
Up next for the Eagles they hit the road for the NCAA Championships which get underway May 27-June 1 in Scottsdale, Ariz.
“Ben Carr is the only one who has played in a National Championship before and everyone is so excited,” said Collins. “This team has written a beautiful story for this year with four team wins and now punching their ticket for nationals. This will go down as one of the best years in school history and I am so proud of what they have accomplished. We aren’t going down there to just have a good showing we want to win and we know we have a great opportunity to achieve some big goals.”