It‚Äôs been a good month for former Georgia golfers.
In three weeks, they‚Äôve lifted three trophies.
Chris Kirk began the run with a victory at The McGladrey Classic at Sea Island on Nov. 10, Harris English followed it up with a week later with a win at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in Mexico, and Kevin Kisner topped a field of pros from the PGA, LPGA, Champions and Web.com tours to win the Pebble Beach Invitational on Sunday.
‚ÄúI think there have been a couple real peaks lately,‚Äù said Georgia men‚Äôs golf coach and director of golf Chris Haack, who took over the program in 1996. ‚ÄúThere was a great time at Q-school (in 2011) when Brendon Todd won and a bunch of guys got their cards, and having Bubba Watson win the Masters in 2012 was a cool week. But to have something like this where three weeks in a row Georgia guys are lifting a trophy, that‚Äôs really special.‚Äù
With 10 former UGA players who have each played at least two PGA Tour events this year, the Bulldogs have been a dominant force. English and Kirk are second and fifth, respectively, in the FedEx Cup standings, and former Georgia golfers have earned a combined $3.4 million in winnings four events into the PGA Tour season.
‚ÄúWe joke that instead of us saying, ‚ÄòWe run this state,‚Äô we should be saying, ‚ÄúWe run this tour,‚Äô‚Äù said Kisner, who earned his 2013-14 PGA Tour card via the Web.com Tour.
Kisner‚Äôs win doesn‚Äôt count toward the FedEx Cup standings, but it could still pay dividends.
‚ÄúI had seen an upward trend in my game the last few months, and I‚Äôve really been working hard,‚Äù Kisner said. ‚ÄúI knew something good would happen, I just wish it would have happened a few weeks earlier and I could have gotten a PGA Tour win. But any time you win an event, it definitely builds up your confidence and gives you some momentum for the season.‚Äù
Kisner said he and his wife, Brittany, went to Pebble Beach as part of a vacation, and after he found himself battling to hold his lead and fend of Chesson Hadley in Sunday‚Äôs final round, realized his trip to one of golf‚Äôs most photographed courses was now about more than just the scenery.
‚ÄúMy wife was driving in the cart with me on Sunday and I said, ‚ÄòWe‚Äôre supposed to be out here having fun. Now I‚Äôm having to grind,‚Äô‚Äù said Kisner, who edged Hadley by a stroke. ‚ÄúI wish everyone could experience that course. And that 18th hole is the greatest place to play when you have a one-shot lead.‚Äù
Can the Bulldogs make it four in a row? It‚Äôs possible Kisner‚Äôs win only strengthened his former teammates‚Äô resolve, Haack said, but we‚Äôll have to wait until the PGA Tour schedule resumes Dec. 5 with the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
‚ÄúI think a lot of it has to do with all that positive reinforcement that they‚Äôre seeing from their former teammates,‚Äù Haack said. ‚ÄúThey see other guys winning, see what they‚Äôve gone through and they say, ‚ÄòIf they can do it, I can do it, too.‚Äô That momentum gives all of them a boost of confidence.‚Äù
Fall competition fuels men‚Äôs squad
If the fall is any indication, Georgia‚Äôs PGA Tour hopefuls should be knee-deep in accolades in 2014.
The Bulldogs finished their fall slate with top-five finishes in each of their five events, including a victory at the Dick‚Äôs Sporting Goods Collegiate Challenge Cup in Nashville, Tenn.
Joey Garber capped the opening leg of the season with medalist honors at The Invitational at The Ocean Course at Kiawah, S.C.
‚ÄúI think it kind of showed those guys that, if they play well, we‚Äôve got a chance to compete in every tournament we play in,‚Äù Haack said. ‚ÄúIt also gave them a chance to reassess what they want to do in the offseason, what they want to work on. No doubt it‚Äôs a highly competitive team, and as long as they‚Äôre competing against one another, they‚Äôre going to be working hard. And if that‚Äôs happening, it‚Äôll put us in good position to win some golf tournaments.‚Äù
The Bulldogs‚Äô spring slate begins Feb. 23 at the Puerto Rico Classic in Rio Grande, P.R.
The Georgia women‚Äôs squad, which had three top-10 finishes in the fall, picks up again on Feb. 7 when it hosts the Lady Bulldog Invitational at the UGA Golf Course.