Georgia played its four-tournament fall season without the services of three players whom coach Chris Haack was counting on to be major contributors.
The injury bug bit the Bulldogs hard: Senior Hudson Swafford (left-shoulder surgery in August), sophomore Will Kropp (pinched nerve in his neck) and sophomore Lowery Thomas (left wrist) did not hit a competitive shot in the fall campaign.
Now there’s a chance that two of those players – Swafford and Kropp – might not be back in the spring.
Kropp frayed a nerve in his neck during the opening round of the Western Amateur in early August. At times, the pain extended to his right shoulder and arm.
Though the injury seems to be healed, the word now is that Kropp is planning to transfer to Oklahoma this spring. Kropp, of Edmond, Okla., is looking to be closer to home, and his father, Brad, not only is his swing coach but also his doctor.
Haack said earlier this week that he had not received a final decision from Kropp, who visited the OU campus earlier this fall, but Haack said he would not stand in the player’s way should he decide to transfer.
The Sooners’ first-year coach, Ryan Hybl, played four years for Haack at Georgia and served as his assistant for a couple of seasons.
Swafford has not hit a golf ball since undergoing surgery for a tear in his left labrum. It had been an ongoing problem that was getting worse.
“It was just a matter of when he would have to do it (surgery),” Haack said. “We decided that, while no time is a good time, this would be the best.”
Haack said it probably will be about another month before Swafford, a two-time second-team All-American and the SEC Freshman of the Year in 2006-07, would be able to swing a club, and then only on a limited basis.
“We don’t want him to try to rush back and end up making matters even worse,” Haack said. “This is something that is going to take a lot of time, and Hudson knows this.”
Swafford could redshirt this year and return for his senior season next fall, when he would join All-Americans Russell Henley and Harris English, who are juniors this season.
“As we move farther along, (redshirting) is becoming more of a reality,” Haack said.
Thomas injured his wrist when he struck a tree root during Georgia’s qualifying competition early in the fall. He is recovering well and is expected back when the Bulldogs open their spring season.
Even with the setbacks, the Bulldogs are No. 20 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, and improved in their last two events of the fall. After a T-10 at Carpet Capital and a T-8 at Olympia Fields, Georgia closed with fourth-place showings at Brickyard and Isleworth.
In case you’re wondering: The last time Georgia went through a fall campaign without a victory was in 2006 (though it did finish in the top 5 in its four stroke-play events).
In case you’re wondering, Part II: In spring 2007, the Bulldogs did not finish outside the top 6, winning five times, including the NCAA East Regional, and second at the NCAA Championship.
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Hoosiers can enjoy holidays: For a while, it looked as though Indiana would nothave a happy holiday break.
After opening the fall with a solid third place at Wolf Run, the Hoosiers went into a tailspin, playing four consecutive tournaments in which their best showing was 10th.
But head coach Mike Mayer’s Hoosiers will enter the winter break on a positive note thanks to a victory at the Renaissance Invitational on Nov. 1-2 in Fort Myers, Fla.
Indiana shot 32-under 832 and won the 12-team event by two strokes over Penn State. On the opening day’s 36 holes, the Hoosiers shot 25 under and trailed Campbell by a shot, posting 44 birdies, led by 15 from senior Alex Martin.
Martin went on to win the individual title with a 16-under 200 on rounds of 69-64-67, two better than Penn State’s Kevin Foley and Liberty’s Max McKay.
“This was a nice way to finish out the fall,” said Mayer, who notched his 15th tournament victory at Indiana. “We played really well at times and simply got the job done. We made some putts when we needed to.”
One thing is certain: Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners are going to taste a lot better now for Mayer and the Hoosiers.
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Stewart shines for SMU: Playing as one of four individuals for SMU, sophomore Aaron Stewart, son of the late Payne Stewart, captured medalist honors Nov. 3 at the Texas-Pan American Classic in Edinburg, Texas.
Stewart finished at even-par 216 after rounds of 70-72-74 to edge freshman teammate Brian Fragakis by two strokes. The Mustangs did not compete as a team at the event, which was won by host Texas-Pan American.
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A look ahead
What: Gifford Collegiate Championship (formerly known as the CordeValle Collegiate Golf Championship)
When: Nov. 9-11
Where: CordeValle Resort, San Martin, Calif.
Field: Arizona, Augusta State, Charlotte, Colorado, Duke, Lamar, Long Beach State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Southern California, Stanford and UCLA.
Why it’s important: The 14-team field includes a few of the best teams in the country. Top-ranked Oklahoma State will look to make it three wins in four starts, while the Pac-10’s best – led by No. 2 Stanford – will try defend the West Coast. Tournament-host UCLA will be making just its second start of the fall.