Thursday, October 14, 2010
J. Andrew Lockwood
The Mercer women’s golf team had mixed results at this year’s LPGA International Xavier Invitational held at the beautiful course in Daytona Beach, Florida. Finishing 10th out of the 14th place field, all five of Mercer’s travelers had trouble at least once in the tournament, but each showed signs of improvement throughout the three day event.
Daytona State College would win the event with a blistering 894 team score over the three day period, outpacing 2nd place Montana by 13 strokes. Mercer would finish behind South Dakota State at 939.
“We have a very interesting team this year,” said head coach Gary Guyer. “ They have an incredible amount of talent and we work really hard preparing for tournaments. My conundrum is weighing their performance in tournaments against my expectations. We can be a really good squad and we are young so I have to temper myself. In the LPGA Invitational in 2009, we came in dead last and shot a score of 969 for all three days. This year, on the same course, we came in 10th and shot a team score of 939. That is a 30 shot improvement; very impressive. I know they should have had a score around 912 because they are good enough and I get to see them compete every day,” he added.
Individually, Mercer was led by a pair of 33rd place finishes from Lacey Fears (77, 81, 77) and Kaitlin Marrin (78, 78, 79) while freshman Mary Alice Murphy would finish tied with Aurelie Wiriath in 42nd. Alicia Poole would finish in 56th for the tournament. Notably, Wiriath shot the low round for the Bears, carding a 75 during the 3rd round.
Daytona State’s Mitsuki Katahira would take home the individual victory, finishing with at -6, eight strokes in front of Atlantic Sun champion Alex Buelow of Stetson.
The Bears now prepare for the final tournament of the fall, the Lady Paladin Invitational held at the Furman Golf Club in Greenville, South Carolina. Guyer expects a better performance in Greenville before the Bears take three months off from tournament play.
“Our next tournament will be at Furman University in a couple of weeks,” said Guyer. “The competition will be the best we have faced this year. We are going to prepare the same as always and I must find a way to make them believe in themselves. This is going to be a special year for us.”
Nonetheless, the fall season has been a spectacular one for the Bears in which they boast of three top-10 finishes and a tournament victory at the Eat a Peach Collegiate held in September at nearby Oakview Golf Course. The winter will provide a much needed break for the women as they gear up for the four spring tournaments before the A-Sun Championship held in DeLand, Florida in mid-April.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
J. Andrew Lockwood
Perhaps it was the return of Macon-native Russell Henley in search for a second consecutive Brickyard Collegiate title. Or perhaps it was the nationally ranked field that teed off at the Brickyard at Riverside that brought the crowds to the fairways. Heck, the fact that the Mercer men’s golf team was hosting the event for the 4th year in a row probably brought out the weekend hackers.
Needless to say, walking the course on Sunday afternoon was special.
Following Russell Henley (Georgia), Brooks Koepka (Florida State), and James White (Georgia Tech) gave the tournament the feel of a small PGA event. The course was immaculate, the crowds were respectfully inebriated with the action, and hosts could not have done a better job putting on the event.
In fact, I was surprised more people weren’t there.
Henley won the championship, again, this time by four strokes over runner-up Carter Newman. Perhaps the golf world’s best young talent showed the crowds another reason why he’s destined to be a PGA-tour mainstay someday. Almost every shot was on line and he had almost complete command over the ball during the tournament.
But the tournament wasn’t just about Henley, or the University of Georgia winning the team championship, or the other notable golfers making the trip to the tournament, but instead this weekend was also about Macon’s (and Mercer’s) ability to host a world-class tournament.
The tournament drew news reports from the New York Daily News to the Macon Telegraph and many papers in between. Golf websites covered it with in-depth reports, including a dedicated front page story on GolfWeek.com. It was a big deal in the golf world, a big time collegiate tournament that seemingly went off without a hitch.
I was surprised by what I saw. As a relatively new and inexperienced golf fan, watching the crowds travel up the course with the pairings was something special. Watching the way that the older fans would discuss each and every shot while the youngsters hung on every word of the players was something of legendary status.
Mercer finished 13th. Augusta State, the defending national champions, finished 2nd. Georgia won and the other major schools doted the top-10 of the 15 team field. More importantly though, the city of Macon won on this one…by many strokes.
For a mid-major city in the south without football or ties to any professional or semi-professional sports franchises (no, the Macon Pinetoppers don’t count), the tournament is a coup. The way in which the tournament was advertised, their website (www.brickyardcollegiate.org), and the way in which it was hosted was nothing short of top-notch. And for as many spectators that did attend, I’d venture to say that attendance will spike by at least 50% in the years to come.
It’s a promising sign in a struggling economy when a city and school of Macon and Mercer’s small stature can pull something like this off. It may not get the television coverage that the A-Sun Basketball Championship does in March, but it very well could put Macon on the map for many years to come.
Hats off to Coach Andrew Tredway, his team, the Brickyard at Riverside management, and Mercer for putting this on. Well done.
J. Andrew Lockwood
The Bears finished 13th in this year’s edition of the Brickyard Collegiate, beating out Gonzaga and Boston College in the 15-team field. Although they didn’t grab the headlines at the Brickyard by Riverside Golf Club here in Macon, the tournament once again grabbed national attention by bringing the biggest names in the college golf world to middle Georgia.
Georgia squeaked out a tournament victory over the reigning Division I National Champions, Augusta State, by one stroke. In a fitting fashion, Macon native Russell Henley, a senior for the Bulldogs, won the individual championship for the 2nd year in a row, posting a three-day total of 206 (-10) beating out runner up Carter Newman of Augusta State by four strokes.
For Mercer, Stefan Labuschagne had the best individual finish, tying for 35th overall at 222 (+6) with respectable rounds of 75, 72, 75. Josh Cone followed with a tie for 39th place finish after a low round of 70 on Sunday, outpacing his teammates Matt Kocolowski (T-45th, +9), John Gregory Joseph (T-58th, +12), Mookie DeMoss (T-75th, +18), Thomas Holmes (T-75th, +18), and Alex Street (82nd, +27).
"I believe my team is really close to breaking through,” said head coach Andrew Tredway. “The past several years the road to the national championship has come through Macon and the Brickyard collegiate. I would say we are closer than ever to having that ability. On paper beating finishing 13th isn't that great, but looking at stroke differential is huge. We're not 100 shots back of the leaders,” he added.
Perhaps the small victories that came during the tournament were beating major schools Gonzaga and Boston College, known for their college basketball teams and strong academics.
“It really comes down to little things: chipping, putting, decision making,” said Tredway. “We are good ballstrikers and we can hang with anyone in that department.”
Ranked #120 in the nation by Golfstat.com, the team still aims to move up in the rankings in hopes of securing an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. Otherwise, the road to the NCAAs will come through winning the Atlantic Sun Championship next April at Chateau Elan in Duluth, Georgia. Looking to wrap up their fall season on a strong note, the men’s team will travel to tee it up at the Memphis Intercollegiate at the Colonial Country club in Memphis, Tennessee.
Saturday, October 2, 2010
J. Andrew Lockwood
October 2, 2010
After winning four of five in mid-September, the Bears seem to stumbling into October’s conference play. After recording a non-conference win against in-state rival Savannah State, Mercer faced two of the A-Sun’s toughest squads in their Nashville road trip to Lipscomb and Belmont. With a team full of experienced veterans and up-and-coming underclassmen, the Bears seem to be building valuable experience as they hit a long stretch of conference games.
Mercer 3 – Savannah State 0
After a season full of tough contests, it was nice for the Bears to take out some frustration on the Tigers from across the state. Winning in dominant fashion (25-12, 25-12, 25-17), the Mercer offense looked spectacular to the tune of a .359 hitting percentage in comparison to Savannah State’s -.085. Senior Krista Hurley would lead her team on the short night, dropping 6 kills, a pair of service aces, and a dig joined by Erica Vrvilo (5 kills), Charlayna Braxton (5 kills), and Anna Coursey (5 kills, solo block, block assist).
Mercer’s net play was a brick wall for Savannah State as they would finish with more attack errors (19) than kills (13) on the night.
“It was great to be back on our home floor,” Coach Rooke said after the game. “Tonight was a true team victory because everyone contributed.”
UNC-Asheville 3 – Mercer 0
The Bulldogs looked like the cream-of-the-crop in the Big South as possible NCAA contenders as they stopped Mercer in their tracks (25-21, 25-17, 25-16) in a quick Tuesday night match. Two Bulldogs, Cindi Miller and Kelsey Benorden would account for 12 kills and 10 kills respectively while Mercer’s Jamie Duffy had a career night with 10 kills, 5 digs and a block assist. Mercer offense struggled against UNC-Asheville’s tall lineup at the net, hitting only .059 for the night.
“Tonight we didn’t bring our ‘A’-game and it’s frustrating,” the coach vented on MercerBears.com. “Right now I feel like we’re competing more in practice. Hat’s off to UNC-Asheville because they played great tonight and got the best of us.”
Lipscomb 3 – Mercer 0
The former A-Sun champs faced a resilient Mercer squad but ultimately bested the Bears in three sets (25-16, 25-20, 25-22). Lipscomb extends their unbeaten streak during the regular season within the A-Sun to 26 matches. Amiee Frutchey’s 8 kills highlighted Mercer’s offensive efforts, but the Bisons’ Alex Kelly recorded 12 kills of her own to lead her team in a defensive matchup. On the defensive side, Charlotte Harris would record 20 digs while Anna Coursey (1 solo block, 1 block assists) and Erica Vrvilo (1 solo block, 2 block assists) would led the Bears at the net.
“Overall I’m pleased with how our team performed,” said Rooke. “Our blocking was good and Charlotte Harris was great on defense. The setters improved their play as the match went on as well,” she added.
Belmont 3 – Mercer 0
The Bruins closed out the Bears’ trip to Nashville in three straight sets (25-9, 25-21, 25-17) to give Mercer their second conference loss of the 2010 season. After a disastrous first set, Mercer looked like a new team in the 2nd set, opening with a 9-1 run. But Belmont, to their credit, responded to every Mercer attack, coming from behind to escape with a four point win.
Belmont’s Maggie Johnson (16 kills, 14 digs) and Kayla Albritton (13 kills, 5 digs) stole the spotlight for the Bruins while Krista Hurley led Mercer with 7 kills.