The Stetson University men’s golf team has gone through some ups and downs during the 2011-12 season, but the Hatters will be looking to finish the year on a high note next week at the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship Tournament.
The event will once again be held at The Legends Course at Chateau Elan in Braselton, Ga., just outside of Atlanta. The course, which was designed by Dennis Griffiths with input from golfing legends Gene Sarazen, Kathy Whitworth and Sam Snead, also hosted the A-Sun Championship last spring.
Stetson finished 10th in 2011, posting a combined team score of 879, 27-over par on the par 71, 6,971-yard course. Kennesaw State, who will serve as the host school for the tournament, comes in as the defending champion of the event. The A-Sun, however, has not been kind to defending title winners and has, in fact, crowned nine different champions over the last nine years.
Hatters coach Bob Weickel said his team will have to play its best golf of the year to get into contention.
“I would like for our chances to be better but the reality is, with the way we have been playing, it will be tough,” Weickel said. “We need to shoot in the low 290s each day to have a chance to make a move, and that is not something we have done this year.”
In winning the A-Sun title last year, KSU posted a score of seven-under par 845 with single round scores of 280, 283, 282. The low round for the Hatters this year was a 291 last week in the second round of the Coca-Cola Wofford Invitational and Stetson’s average score this year has been 302.6.
This year marks Stetson’s 27th appearance in the A-Sun Championship tournament. The Hatters’ only league crown came in 1990 and the team has finished no higher than fifth (just once) in the last 18 years.
“It is tough to finish well because our conference is so good,” Weickel said. “There are some very good teams in this league and the reality is that we would have to play better than we have all year in order to compete with them.”
Individually, Stetson senior Sam Ryder finished tied for 6th at the 2011 championship, and he will enter the 2012 tournament as one of the top players. He carries a 71.6 stroke average into the tournament this year and has posted nine rounds in the 60s, including a low round of 66 in the second round last week in Spartanburg, SC.
“Sam will have a chance to win individually if he avoids having a round like he did in the final round last week,” Weickel said of Ryder’s final round score of 75 last week. “He is a lot like Alex Buelow for the women in that he has a chance to win every week if he can avoid having that one bad hole.”
Besides Ryder, the Hatters will also see senior Micah Jacobsen play in his final collegiate event next week. Jacobsen, whose season highlight was an ace on the third hole at the Surf Club in Myrtle Beach earlier this year at the Bash at the Beach event, carries a 76.6 scoring average this year into the A-Sun Tournament.
Jacobsen enters the A-Sun Tournament off his best round of the year, a two-under par 70 in the final round last week.
“Sam and Micah have been pretty consistent all year,” Weickel said. “Those other guys have gone through some struggles. Micah has played well in the last couple of events, but he has played through a bad foot and a bad thumb for most of the year. He has healed up enough now where he has started to play without pain.”
Weickel, who did not see the ace Jacobsen scored in early March, which came on a 193-yard par three, said that while luck has a lot to do with it, a hole-in-one is always a wonderfully surprising and exciting event. He estimates there have been eight or nine aces from Stetson players in his 31-year career as head coach of the Hatters.
“I was three holes ahead at another par three,” Weickel said. “I had told all of the guys about what to do on that hole and then went ahead to the other par three to catch them as they came through there. When they got there they told me that Micah made a hole-in-one.”
According to a report in the Fernandina Beach, Fla., News-Leader, Jacobsen used a seven iron on the hole, which was playing 193 yards that day. His shot landed on the edge of the green and rolled the final eight feet to the cup. Jacobsen’s ace was one of 79 that has been scored in collegiate golf this year, according to GolfStat.com.
The rest of the Stetson squad that will compete at the A-Sun Championship includes senior Andrew Schiano, sophomore Tyler White and freshman Matt Taylor.
The A-Sun Tournament will open play on Monday, April 16, and will continue through Wednesday, April 18, with single rounds each day. Live scoring for the tournament will be available through GolfStat.com.