With two of the three fall events under their belts, Georgia’s men’s golfers are hoping to ride the momentum of their second-place finish at the Oct. 25-27 Legends Collegiate Invitational into today's tournament in Birmingham, Alabama. It's the final fall event for three fifth-year seniors who took the NCAA up on its eligibility extension offered on March 30 in the wake of COVID-19 cancellations.
They’re taking extra steps to prepare themselves, their team and their younger teammates for the end of the fall season and the start of the spring.
“I put pressure on the guys and see how they rise up, and some of them have,” Trevor Phillips said. “It's hard to get four or five guys out there playing their best for an entire weekend.”
Phillips, a freshman in 2016, said he made it his mission to test the incoming players and prepare them for the steep change in competition. After looking at the retained and new talent, Phillips said it only made him more confident about this season.
Another fifth-year, and captain, Spencer Ralston said the slow start at the first event of the year came from poor play over the summer and the readjustments to working with a new team. Ralston said there is a lot missing from creating a collective identity this season, but they are making up for it in other ways.
“Everyone is having a 1-on-1 dinner with everyone on the team… I’ve learned things I wouldn’t typically get to learn,” Ralston said. “I guess it is nice because we get to have everyone at the hotel together and hang out.”
Fifth-year Will Chandler is taking a different approach to assuring he and his teammates remain focused. Chandler wants to create a casual, yet positive atmosphere to get the best from the team.
"I think it's important for everyone to have their attitude and their mind right,” Chandler said. “You can’t live and die by how you play. It'll drive you crazy.”
The fifth-years are confident they can build off of their most recent finish, in which Georgia lost by five strokes to Vanderbilt, last season’s NCAA runner up.
Phillips said the extra-large roster, which increases competition in the team, also helps the momentum. Only five of 13 players will tee-off in a given tournament.
“Everything was based on scores alone, and we’d take the top five,” Phillips said. “Now [head coach Chris Haack] will take two players on things like attitude and experience, not just scores, but that’s in there too.”
All three events in the fall have featured a full 14-team SEC field, and all three fifth-years said that the conference-only competition makes it harder on the newer players. But they said it makes the team better as a whole.