Georgia Southern has great name recognition in the world of college athletics. Six national championships in football will do that for you.
However, before football there was golf, and the Eagles have a rich and storied tradition in that sport, too.
Players like Jodie Mudd, Gene Sauers, Mike Donald and Buddy Alexander put
the Eagle name on the map in the pre-football days, earning All America status and making it into the NCAA tournament.
Southern had made 10 NCAA golf tourney appearances before football played its first playoff game.
Mudd, Sauers and Donald later played and won tournaments on the PGA tour while Alexander won a U.S. Amateur and played in the Walker Cup while establishing himself as one of the top coaches in the college ranks.
Alexander, who coached at Southern from 1977-1980, is in his 23rd season
Under current Coach Larry Mays, now in his 10th season, the Eagle program has reached a level where competing for a Southern Conference championship and an NCAA tournament berth is an annual expectation.
Mays has guided Georgia Southern to two SoCon titles, seven trips to the NCAA regional tournament, and three to the national tourney.
While one golf tourna ment isn't responsible for the Eagles' success under Mays he does believe there is a direct correlation between that success and the rebirth of the E-Z-Go Schenkel Invitational.
The 31st annual tournament, considered to be one of the nation's top college golf events, opens Friday at Forest Heights Country Club featuring 15 teams, four of them ranked in the top 25, and nine in the top 50 in the latest Golf World/Sagarin rankings.
The tournament was first played in 1973, but following the 1989 event it was not played again until 1999.
Mays said it's no coincidence this was also a period when the GSU program was in the doldrums.
"The Schenkel is one of the best tournaments in the country," said Mays. "Anyone who follows the tournament has seen the impact it had on our program in the 90s when we didn't have it.
"There was a significant dip," said Mays. "This tournament is important to our program because it is a strong bargaining chip. By hosting good teams it gets us invites to other great tournaments."
Southern isn't expected to contend for the title, but Mays wouldn't mind being a rude host. The Eagles have never won the event. They have three second-place finishes, the most recent coming in 2001.
"We're not bad when we've got four guys playing good at the same time," said Mays, who has seen his team finish sixth, ninth and 10th in three tournaments this spring.
"Our problem is we have two to three guys play well each day," said Mays, "but it's a different two or three."
Defending champion South Carolina and Florida head the field.
The Gators are ranked sixth in the nation and the Gamecocks are 11th. Virginia checks in at No. 21 and North Florida is No. 25.
Rounding out the field are Alabama, Tennessee, LSU, N.C. State, Auburn, Vanderbilt, Louisville, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Mississippi.
In addition to some outstanding teams, there are also several outstanding individuals who will be testing the 6,962 yard, par 72 layout.
Bud Cauley and Hunter Hamrick of Alabama, Jonathan Randolph of Ole Miss, Sean Dale of North Florida, Ben Kohles of UVA, Tim McKenney and Tyson
Alexander of Florida, Georgia Bryan IV of South Carolina, and Andrew Loupe of LSU are ranked among the top 50 individuals in the nation.