PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – When players were called into the clubhouse shortly into Tuesday’s final round of the John Hayt Invitational, Tennessee was in the 11th position on the leaderboard. Jim Kelson’s players were the ones pulling golf clubs out of their bags, drying off grips, preparing to go out and climb back up the leaderboard.
When the final round was wiped at Sawgrass Country Club, Tennessee had to take that 11th. It doesn’t quite fit in to the rest of this season’s record. The Volunteers, ranked No. 33 by Golfweek, finished eighth at the Carpet Capital Collegiate to open the season, but hadn’t finished outside the top 5 since. Tennessee won the Seabest Invitational across the street from Sawgrass Country Club on Feb. 5. The Volunteers overtook Texas A&M on the back nine at TPC Sawgrass’ Players Stadium Course – no small task – for the victory.
“At least for me personally, (the John Hayt) showed you have to have a little more patience in bad weather,” senior Rick Lamb said. Lamb, who won the individual title at the SeaBest, finished T-31 at Sawgrass Country Club.
Lamb’s victory at the SeaBest was his second consecutive individual title, dating back to the fall season. He also won the Gifford Collegiate in San Martin, Calif. Lamb, who spent his freshman and sophomore years on the Santa Clara roster, credits the breakthrough to experience, especially experience being close to the lead.
“I know how to handle those things,” he said. Head coach Jim Kelson might agree. Kelson describes Lamb as a player who has developed an “inner calm” on the course.
Lamb’s 71.67 average is the lowest on the team. In addition to collegiate experience, Lamb traveled to Royal Melbourne Golf Club (site of the 2011 Presidents Cup) for the Master of the Amateurs in January. He finished T-13.
That decision was made partly out of sheer desire to play Royal Melbourne, partly out of a push to make this year’s Walker Cup squad. Lamb is ranked No. 43 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.
While Lamb lends his leadership and collegiate experience to the Volunteer team, Aussie Oliver Goss, who joined the team in January, adds some international experience. Goss, of Perth, Australia, decided to join the roster in the spring so that he could take the fall off after a heavy amateur schedule. He is No. 16 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.
“You know he’s a guy who could go out and shoot 65 on any given day,” said Lamb, who added that he has to work hard to beat Goss each time he goes out.
Kelson expects the addition of Goss to be a big factor for Tennessee. He’ll also spark some inner-team competition down the roster. In short, the addition of Goss is good for everyone.
“We were lucky to get him,” Kelson said. “… He’s adjusting very well, and he’s got a great deal of talent.”
For Tennessee, the SeaBest title was something to build on, but as Kelson notes, “it seems like awhile ago now.”
“I think we’re just now getting our team kind of finalized,” he said. “We’re excited about the spring, we’re excited about the potential of this team.”
Tennessee could be a major factor by the time postseason rolls around.
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LIVE FROM LOUISIANA: Next week’s Louisiana Classics Golf Tournament will be broadcast live from Oakbourne Country Club in Lafayette, La. The coverage will be available on the University of Louisiana’s athletic web site on March 4-5. Cameras will be set up at Nos. 9 and 18, and the broadcast will include running commentary.
“I think this is huge for an event that has been going on for 28 years,” head coach Theo Sliman said in a press release. “To be pioneers in the collegiate golf world and bring live video to our event is something that I couldn’t be more proud of. I think aside from the major conferences and the national championship, this will be the first time you will see live video at a regular season tournament.”
Highlights of the 14-team field include LSU, Illinois and Kent State – all among Golfweek’s top 30.
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WELCOME TO THE STRAITS: The Kohler Collegiate Classic will debut in October, and will feature the top Division II and NAIA teams. The event will consist of 36 holes of stroke play to be played on the Straits Course at Whistling Straits (Division II) and the River Course at Blackwolf Run (NAIA).
“This is a unique opportunity to offer our players a chance to play courses that have hosted and will continue to host major championships. The tournament committee is excited to put this event together and make it one of the top events of the year in college golf at our levels,” said Josh Heiple, a member of the tournament committee and the head golf coach at Ashford University (NAIA) in Clinton, Iowa.
The first round of invitations are set to go out the first week of March, and the field is expected to be announced in June.