Coach Randy Wylie discusses the recently released South Atlantic Conference Awards, as well as the upcoming SAC Championships.
VIDEO: Randy Wylie Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Following a regular season that saw the Eagles pick up a victory at the Bobby Nichols Intercollegiate and compile the third-best stroke average in their conference, the No. 25 Carson-Newman men's golf team will head to the Country Club of Salisbury in Salisbury, N.C. for the South Atlantic Conference Championships, which will begin on Sunday and conclude on Tuesday.
"There's always some anxiety," said coach Randy Wylie, "but that's good. Those are just the butterflies that you want to have. It means you're a competitor and you're ready to compete. It's just a matter of showing up each day, playing one shot at a time and taking care of business."
Over the last eight months, the Eagles, who recently moved into the national rankings, played in nine events to prepare for their conference tournament. Their lone win came in March in a field that included seven teams from Division I. C-N concluded that competition 25 strokes ahead of second place, which was claimed by the rival Lincoln Memorial Railsplitters. The group's second round score of a 14-under 274 is one that no one in the league has been able to match. The team has also claimed second place twice and they will be attempting to improve upon a second place finish in the 2016 SAC Tournament.
One of the competitors leading Carson-Newman into Salisbury is the newly minted SAC Freshman of the Year, Tom Forster (Oundle, England), who also earned first-team all-conference honors. In his initial season in the Blue and Orange, he averaged 72.3 shots per 18 holes, which placed him fifth in the league. Forster's last two times on the links, he's registered scores of eight-under and one-under, the only player this season to finish consecutive events in the red. He's also finished in the top 10 in each of C-N's last two competitions.
A second-team all-conference selection, Jake Headrick (Maryville, Tenn.) is the only member of the roster who has a win to his credit during the current campaign. He edged out Forster by a single stroke at the Bobby Nichols Intercollegiate for his first career victory. He clinched first place with a final round 66 that is tied for the third-best 18 hole mark in the SAC in 2016-17. He will enter this event after a score of even-par in the University of North Alabama Spring Preview at the end of March. Three of C-N's six best rounds this season belong to Headrick.
Dalton Reese (Warrenton, Ga.) joined Headrick on the second-team after a season in which he remained a consistent presence in his team's lineup. He ranks just one spot below his sophomore teammate in the conference in stroke average at 72.9 and has shot over 75 just three times. Reese has a pair of top 10 finishes to his credit and has placed outside the top 20 only twice while playing in every event on Carson-Newman's slate. Two of the top 10 scores posted by C-N over 18 holes this season belong to this senior from Georgia.
The second freshman who will be clad in the Blue and Orange in North Carolina is Brady Childers (Granite Falls, N.C.). His initial year in Mossy Creek has included three rounds under par, all of which have come in the spring. Childers has also finished two tournaments in the top 25.
The conference championships will mark the fourth appearance of the season for Anthony Marcinelli. The Knoxville native had his best showing in the Spring Kickoff Intercollegiate, where he fired a one-over 145 over 36 holes. He also has a score of one-under to his credit that he carded in the final round of the Panther Invitational.
"Each guy needs to be his own best self [this week]," said Wylie. "They just need to play one shot at a time, take care of their business and concentrate on what is in front of them. When we do that, we're an extremely competitive team and we can beat every team in our conference. We just need to play our game and if we do that, we'll have a good chance at the end."
Waiting for coach Wylie and his charges is a par 71 course that covers 6,558 yards and was designed by architect Donald Ross.
"We're playing at a great golf course," said Wylie. "The Country Club of Salisbury is a wonderful track and we really like it. That makes me feel really good going into the tournament, knowing that we've played the course and we're comfortable there. It suits everybody on the team really well."
The Eagles will be battling a field that includes two other ranked teams. Newberry currently sits at No. 10 nationally and they also possess the league's best stroke average at 291.3. The Wolves have also claimed two victories this season. Not far behind is No. 17 LMU at 292.5. They have set a new program record with three triumphs and the Railsplitters enter this competition as the defending champs. They topped the Eagles by three strokes to take home the 2016 SAC Championship.
At the end of each day in Salisbury, you can find a recap and results on cneagles.com.