Georgia Southern seniors share special weekend
When Georgia Southern senior Hayden Anderson heard that his roommate, Will Evans, pulled off an ace during the second round of the Schenkel Invitational Saturday, he knew he was going to hear about it later.
"Hayden came up to me and said, 'That was a hole-in-one, wasn't it, coach?'" said Georgia Southern head coach Larry Mays. "I said, 'Yeah that's your roommate, Will.' And he said, 'Man, he's going to be talking about that all night.'"
But when Anderson shot a hole-in-one of his own later in the round, he couldn't help but think about his former teammate Thomas Sharkey, who died in a 2011 house fire in Scotland. Sharkey would have been playing his final Schenkel Invitational alongside Anderson and Evans.
"You definitely have that weird feeling that he was watching over us that whole time," Anderson said. "I remember telling people that I don't really care what happens as far as my individual efforts, as long as we come out with the win. I just feel like we've done so much for Sharkey."
Evans and Anderson's holes-in-one helped give Georgia Southern a four-stroke lead heading into the final day with the likes of Alabama-Birmingham and Central Florida in hot pursuit. On a rain-soaked Sunday, the Eagles sealed the deal for their first win at the Schenkel Invitational in the tournament's 35-year history with the help of junior Scott Wolfes medalist effort.
"I never thought we could do it in my four years there," Anderson said. "It's still trying to sink in. There was so much that went into that tournament and so many different emotions felt after we won."
Evan's ace came at the 130-yard, par-3 6th. Anderson hit his hole-in-one at the 198-yard, par-3 13th.
"I hit a pitching wedge and it landed about pin-high and took a big hop to a hill that was basically a backstop behind the flag. It had a little bit of spin on it and kept on trickling," Evans said. "I didn't really know what to do. I got a pretty good reaction from the crowd."
Anderson took a less traditional route for his hole-in-one.
"It was one of the harder par 3s out there, and I was just trying to hit it to the middle of the green," Anderson said. "I pushed it just a little bit and it was going right at the flag and somehow bounced up and rolled in there."
The two golfers, along with fellow senior Drew Guffey and redshirt junior Matthew Mierzejewski, spent their freshmen seasons with Sharkey, growing a bond with a man that Evans said, "was a great friend and an even better teammate."
Said Evans: "On the course, he was one of the funniest guys I've ever met. If he did something that he thought was a mistake he shouldn't make, he would go off on himself and it was hilarious. I've never seen a guy that would snap and then flip the switch and talk to you like nothing ever happened."
Anderson recalls spending late nights on the road playing video games with Sharkey, or sitting in on a biology class while Sharkey distracted himself with a Celtic match, his favorite soccer team.
The Schenkel Invitational is a special event for host Georgia Southern, but it also meant a lot to Sharkey.
"Sharkey had his best round in college at this tournament his last year with us, he shot a 69," Mays said. "He loved competing in front of his home crowd. His best experience in college golf was at the Schenkel.
"The year after he died, we invited (Angela) Sharkey (Thomas Sharkey's mom) back and she spent 10 days with us and we had her with us at the Schenkel. It meant a lot with it being the last home event for these seniors and what would have been Sharkey's last home event as well."
Anderson said it was difficult to find closure after his friend's unexpected death. The athletic department held a memorial service at a Catholic church in Statesboro, Ga., but Anderson never felt quite right.
"The next couple months were really difficult," Anderson said. "Our team got off to a rough start that fall and it was hard to really grasp everything that had happened. Since we lost a lot of players and had a bunch of new guys coming in, it was hard for them to understand what was going on and to try and explain to them what kind of a guy Sharkey was.
"It was neat there was a bond between me and Will and we were able to rally around that and work with each other to make this in honor of Sharkey."
Evans said before the tournament that, if the team won, he would like to give Angela Sharkey the trophy. Sharkey lost her husband, Thomas Sr., son, Thomas, and daughter, Bridget in 2011. Thomas was 21, and Bridget was 8.
"She's the one that deserves it, because she's the one that 's been through more than any of us could imagine," Anderson said. "It would mean the most for me for her to have it."
Following the win, the team started its Spring Break, giving the golfers the chance to step back from the game and gather their emotions.
"I don't really know how I'll be affected. It's something I'll hold onto forever," Evans said. "I don't know how it will play out for the rest of the year. We could go out and not break top five for the rest of the year, I'd still be happy. It's just so special to us."