VIDEO: Randy Wylie Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Coming off of a successful 2016-17 season that included a No. 22 national ranking and outings at the South Atlantic Conference and NCAA Regional Tournaments, the reigning SAC Tournament champions are gearing up to start to the season with a trip to the Cougar Invitational presented by Aflac in Columbus, Ga. on Monday and Tuesday.
The fall slate was originally slated to begin on Sept. 11 at the Kiawah Invitational, but the tournament was cancelled due to impending impacts from Hurricane Irma in Kiawah, S.C.
"The guys are kind of chomping at the bit, ready to go," head coach Randy Wylie said of the delayed start to the 2017 season. "We've been playing a lot against each other. It'll be nice to be playing against some guys in some other uniforms."
The late start to the season marks the first time since 2013 that the Eagles have traveled to the Country Club of Columbus for the tournament hosted by Columbus Start last time the Eagles participated in the event was in 2013 when the Eagles finished 7th after shooting 881 over three rounds of play.
Nine players return to Wylie's squad this season including Thomas Forster who was named to the GCAA/Ping All-America third-team at the conclusion of the 2016-17 campaign. The sophomore was also named the South Atlantic Conference Freshman of the Year and named a first-team selection. He produced the fifth-best stroke average in the SAC at 72.3 while closing the season with five straight top-10 finishes.
"It's so nice to have three really experienced guys at the top of our lineup to help the younger guys come along," Wylie mentioned.
While Columbus Country Club may be unfamiliar territory for the golfers due to the length of time between this tournament and the last appearance the Eagles made, coach Wylie is confident in his team's ability to take ownership in the event on a course that he is familiar with.
"Our top three guys are so experienced that they can handle different golf courses fairly easily," Wylie said. "I have played the course several times. That should be helpful to the freshmen, in particular.
"I'll be spending a lot of time with [the freshmen] in the practice round trying to make that they see and pick up different things, see the subtleties in the course that a less-experienced player may not pick up."
The extensive field for the tournament contains 18 teams, including Clayton State, Lee University, Young Harris, North Alabama and SAC foes Lincoln Memorial and Wingate.
The Cougar Invitational tees off Monday morning to start the 36-hole first day tournament.