With Ben Carr’s drive off of the first tee at Forest Heights Country Club early Friday morning, the 40th annual Schenkel Invitational was officially underway. The freshman from Columbus led off for Georgia Southern, but it was senior Steven Fisk that provided the burst and momentum to carry the Eagles to a sixth place standing on day one.
It wasn’t the prettiest showing from anyone in the field on Friday, making for a round that most would likely hope to forget. The front nine was especially brutal for the Eagles, everyone from Fisk to freshman Mason Williams struggled to stay afloat.
“We showed some toughness today, some resiliency,” head coach Carter Collins said. “We got punched in the mouth pretty good. The front usually yields a lot of birdies and for us today it didn’t.”
Fisk was able to come back from three bogeys with an eagle on the par-5 seventh hole and carded a birdie on the ninth hole. Carr also had a manageable front nine, going out in 1-under 35.
Georgia Southern really came into form on the back nine with a consistent and composed Fisk anchoring the group.
Carrying over the momentum from holes seven through nine, Fisk came out with a birdie on the 10th and then parred every hole until the 18th as he bookended his back nine with another birdie.
Finishing the round the way he did was crucial for more than just weekend momentum.
“It makes lunch taste a little bit better,” Fisk said. “I’m just proud of the way I finished today after getting off to that slow start.”
The senior ended his final first round of the Schenkel with a 2-under par 70, putting him tied for fifth with ETSU’s Trevor Hulbert, Kentucky’s Cullan Brown and Middle Tennessee State’s Marcus Byrd.
Carr finished in second on the team, finishing at even par on the day. The freshman started the day off strong, but was cooled off by three bogeys on the back nine.
His coach was proud of the performance.
“[Carr] hit the first tee shot of the Schenkel Invitational and last year he was playing high school golf,” Collins said. “So for him to come out here and be able to handle the pressure, hit par, birdie the last two holes and put a round together that our team desperately needed was very, very impressive.”
Sitting in the top six, Collins stressed that his team was in a great position to make a run heading into the two weekend rounds.
“This thing is never won on Friday,” Collins said. “We’ve put ourselves in a pretty good position going into the weekend and we’ve just gotta let our hair down and go get them.”
Eagle Nation lined the final two holes, standing and sitting with about 30 or so fans to support Georgia Southern. Always a well-attended event, Fisk and Collins are both aware of how much the tournament means to both the team and the community.
“We are so closely intertwined with the Statesboro community that when we're around the fans and when they come out, we want to put on a show for them,” Collins said. “We want to make them clap. The more people that came out to watch us today, the better we played so hopefully we get some big crowds this weekend.”
“You only get to have your home event once a year and we’re very lucky the Schenkel is as special as it is,” Fisk said. “I really told [the freshmen] to enjoy it and embrace it as much as they can because it’s a very special week for us. It’s something that I want them to remember for a really long time.”