Heading into the second playing of Georgia Southern’s individual men’s golf tournament, GS coach Carter Collins said that he thought his team had a good chance of making sure that the tournament title stayed in Statesboro for a second straight season.
As it turns out, the tournament championship is not only staying in town, but it doesn’t even have to change lockers.
With two playings of the tournament now in the books, Georgia Southern’s Jake Storey is the only champion the event has ever known. Storey ran away with victory a year ago before rallying to defend his title this time around.
“It’s a great feeling,” Storey said. “It’s a tough course and we had a tough field. I was just concentrating on making each shot and I ended up in a position to win.”
Rain on Sunday forced the tournament to play just 18 of the originally scheduled 36 holes and finishing with Monday’s scheduled 18 holes to make it a 36-hole tournament instead of 54. Storey slogged through the opening round with a 1-over 73. He carded a 1-under 71 on Monday, which was good enough to tie Alabama’s Wilson Furr for the top spot.
The duo went to a playoff, with both making par on their first extra hole. On the second playoff hole — the difficult and demanding 18th — Storey missed the green in regulation, but scrambled for another par. Furr managed just a bogey and Storey was the tournament champion once again.
“I was in a (playoff situation) like that last year at the Sun Belt championship,” Storey said. “I was pretty comfortable with it. And it doesn’t really change anything. You just have to make the best shots you can.”
Storey started the tournament well, shooting a 2-under 34 on the course's difficult front nine before a two-hour rain delay and a 3-over 39 on the back nine.
Storey was in danger of falling out of contention midway through Monday's round, but he stormed to a 3-under finish over his final nine holes to force — and then win — a playoff.
Storey's teammates weren't far behind as rotation regulars like Brett Barron (+3), Avery Price (+4) and Luukas Alakulppi (+7) all finished in the top-20 of the 50-player field.
"I thought everyone played well," Storey said. "We all like the competition. We were all ready to get back into things (following the season break from November through January) and we all cheer each other while pushing each other to play out best."
The tournament won't count toward the national rankings for Georgia Southern or for its individual players, but the Eagles currently sit at No. 52 in the nation — highest of any Sun Belt team as the Eagles aim for their second conference championship in four seasons.
With teammate Stephen Fisk currently ranked third in the country, Storey's tournament win could be the start of a great finishing kick to the regular season.
"Last year, this event was a springboard for him that he's been riding since then," GS coach Carter Collins said. "This win is a continuation of that progress. These wins are not a byproduct of Jake playing well, I think they are a byproduct of Jake being a very good player. I think great things are ahead for him in his last semester."
Georgia Southern will be back at its practice facility this week before heading south to Gainesville next weekenf for the Gator Invitational, which Collins stated should feature the best competition his squad has run up against this season.