Georgia’s men’s golf team had a season for the scrapbooks last year.
Unfortunately, most of the players on this year’s team don’t have much first-person memory of the 2011 run to the national final.
Georgia heads to the Southeastern Conference Men’s Golf Championships with just one player who has ever competed in the league tournament.
“We’ve got a brand new bunch of guys,” Georgia junior T.J. Mitchell said. “I played in it two years ago but didn’t make the lineup last year. We’ve got four new guys who have never played in it before, but that makes it exciting. Most of us have never done it before, so we’re excited to finally get out there.”
Georgia’s men head to Sea Island Golf Course at St. Simons Island for the conference championships that run from today to Sunday.
This is title weekend for both sides of Georgia’s golf program. The Lady Bulldogs head to the SEC Women’s Championships at Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Ark. today-Sunday.
“We’re really playing great,” Georgia senior Emilie Burger said. “We’re coming off a great tournament at the Liz (Murphey Collegiate) against a really strong field. It gives us a lot of momentum. We finished high (second). Alabama played great and we didn’t finish that far behind them. We had a couple of scores, I know I had one of them, that we felt could have been better. So we’ve got the good confidence going right now.”
Georgia’s men have gone through a complete overhaul after sending four players off last year’s team to the professional ranks. This year’s Bulldogs have no seniors, one junior, three sophomores and a freshman and only count one SEC tournament appearance among them.
“It’s amazing how much experience we had last year and how much inexperience we have this year,” Georgia men’s coach Chris Haack said. “It’s actually been a fun year, going through the process to see who’s going to step up and finding out who the really good players are. They’ve all done really good things in different tournaments. The key is getting them to do it on a consistent basis. If we can get that out of all of them, we can be good. If we can have them all to reach their potential at the same time, it can be fun.”
Even though he’s a freshman, Nicholas Reach has Georgia’s lowest stroke average at 71.68 per round. He tied for first at last month’s Linger Longer Invitational.
“This is really exciting for me,” Reach said. “We’re all pretty excited going down there. We’re playing really well now. We’ve been really competitive since the beginning that second semester. I’ve heard Sea Island is a great golf course to play, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Burger, a senior from Hoschton, has become the lowest-scoring player for the Georgia women this season after changing her putting approach. Burger has a 72.3 per-round average with nine top-10 finishes this season.
“I haven’t felt this good about my game in forever, so I’m really excited to see how I play,” Burger said. “I’m hitting the ball well. I’ve got a lot of confidence in my putter, which has been my problem the past couple of years. It’s more consistent, but the big thing is I just have more confidence in it.
“They say golf is a game played in the six inches between your ears, so I didn’t have any confidence in it. So I switched my putter up. I switched my technique up and now I know I’m going to make it every time I look at a putt.”
Burger is ranked 15th in the nation, just ahead of teammate Marta Silva Zamora at No. 16. Burger has only missed the top 10 in one event so far this season.
“This has been building for her,” Georgia women’s coach Kelley Hester said. “I thought over the summer and in the first part of the year that this might be a breakout year for Emilie. In the past, she’d been somewhat in Marta’s shadow. But she’s always been such a hard worker that you knew it was just a matter of time before she’d start shooting more under-par rounds and her not-as-good rounds would get better, and that’s been pretty much what happened.”