Strong field to challenge Eagles at Panther Invitational

VIDEO: Randy Wylie Interview

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – After earning a tie for fifth place in their first tournament of the spring, the Carson-Newman men's golf team will face possibly their stiffest test of the 2016-17 season when they travel to Melbourne, Fla. for the Panther Invitational, which will be hosted by the Florida Institute of Technology at the Duran Golf Club.

"I feel like we haven't hit our stride yet," said men's golf coach Randy Wylie. "We should be. We're a good, experienced team. We just haven't put it together. We keep having to count one bad score or one bad round and it's stalled us a little bit. Hopefully as we head into the middle of the season and postseason, we can put it all together."

Dalton Reese (Warenton, Ga.), Tom Forster (Oundle, England) and Jake Headrick (Maryville, Tenn.) have participated in all five events C-N has played in this season and they will be hitting the links again this week. Reese currently owns a stroke average of 72.6, tops on the roster and good enough for seventh in the South Atlantic Conference. The senior has also finished in the top 20 in all but one tournament since September, the only member of coach Wylie's team to do so.

Not far behind is Forster, who continues to be one of the group's top players despite this being his first year in the Blue and Orange. His stroke average of 72.7 places him eighth in the conference and he led the Eagles in their first competition of the spring, the Spring Kickoff Intercollegiate in Jacksonville in February. The native of England shot four-over to tie for 11th and this marked the fourth time during the 2016-17 campaign that Forster has posted his team's best score.

Headrick has carded two of the programs three best rounds this season, including a four-under 68 at the State Farm Intercollegiate in October that stands as C-N's best. He concluded that competition tied for sixth, his best showing since the SAC Championships in 2016. His stroke average currently sits at 73.40.

Playing in just his second event of the year is sophomore Anthony Marcinelli. The Knoxville native played in two of the three rounds at the Spring Kickoff Intercollegiate and finished with a score of three-over. Once again, Marcinelli will only be playing in two of the three rounds in Melbourne this week.

The Eagles will also be looking for contributions from Brady Childers (Granite Falls, N.C.). The freshman was on the course in Jacksonville as an individual and tied for 51st. He's also participated in the St. Leo Invitational, where he tied for 66th, and the Walters State Fall Classic, placing 21st.

The Eagles, who did receive votes in the most recent GCAA Coaches poll, will be competing in a field that includes six ranked squads, three of which currently reside in the top five. Second-ranked Lynn University, third-ranked Barry University and fourth-ranked Florida Southern will all be in Melbourne, as will the 12th ranked Panthers, 16th ranked St. Leo and 25th ranked Columbus State.

"Any time you compete against the top teams," said Wylie, "it pushes you to move your game forward and compete at their level. I think our kids will respond to that and it's really going to help us heading into postseason. I think almost any coach that plays a really tough schedule will say it makes their team tougher."

Each school's student-athletes will have to contend with 18 difficult holes which were designed by course architect Lewis Powell more than 10 years ago. The total yardage on the par 72 course is 7,151. During each round, golfers will tasked with navigating a number of water hazards and sweeping doglegs along with coastal breezes from the Atlantic Ocean. The Duran Golf Club is also characterized by its rolling terrain and large, undulating greens.

This two-day tournament will begin with 36 holes on Monday and finishes on Tuesday, as each player hits the links for 18 more. For a recap of the play on each day, visit