Third-straight Sunshine State trip ahead for No. 20 C-N at Saint Leo Invitational

Third-straight Sunshine State trip ahead for No. 20 C-N at Saint Leo Invitational

VIDEO: Randy Wylie Interview

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Looking to stay on track with another top-three finish, No. 20 Carson-Newman heads back to Florida for a third-consecutive event, taking part in the Saint Leo Invitational at the Lake Jovita Country Club in Dade City, Fla. on Monday and Tuesday.

The Eagles started the spring with a third-place finish at the Spring Kickoff Intercollegiate despite shooting 31-over par. The finish helped lift the Eagles back into Golfstat's national rankings.

"I thought we were pretty rusty," coach Randy Wylie said. "We really struggled the first day, didn't handle the speed of the greens too well. We didn't putt very well all week and, in spite of that, we were tough enough to get into position to win coming down the stretch and just didn't quite close the door.

"I liked that we showed some resiliency and some toughness, but we clearly weren't ready to play at our best level yet, so hopefully, that's coming this week."

This trip marks the fourth appearance for the Eagles in the event hosted by No. 8 Saint Leo. In their last two trips to the tournament, C-N has finished at fifth in the field.

In terms of starters for this year's event, Wylie is sticking with 80-percent of the lineup he used in the spring opener, keeping his starting three intact with Tom Forster (Oundle, England), Jake Headrick (Maryville, Tenn.) and Jackson Tyler (Wilmington, N.C.). The trio was all a part of the starting lineup for the Eagles in Dade City last year, as well.

Forster will lead the team for a second-straight event, the fourth time this season. The junior's scoring average to this point in the season sits at 71.7, the second-best of South Atlantic Conference golfers who have participated in 11 or more rounds of play. Beyond that, Golfstat has him listed as No. 16 among D-II players.

In last year's Invitational, Forster was two-over for a share of 18th.

Headrick comes into the Invitational after tying for 11th with Forster at the Kickoff with a six-over score of 222. The senior, playing at the second spot for this event, is averaging a 74.2 so far this year.

Last year, Headrick was the top Eagle in the Saint Leo Invitational, landing in a tie for 11th by the end of the tournament. He was the only player donning Orange and Blue to shoot below par with a one-under 215.

Tyler will hold down the No. 3 seed for the Eagles this week after a +12 outing at the Intercollegiate, tying for 24th with a 228. This is the fourth-straight event the sophomore has participated in this season, owning a 75.7 scoring average. In his previous showing at St. Leo, he tied for 32nd with an eight-over score of 224.

Also returning to the starting lineup for C-N as the No. 5 slot for a second-straight event is Jake Mynatt (Knoxville, Tenn.). The freshman used a 226 through three rounds to move his adjusted scoring average on the season to 74.2, starting in all 11 of the rounds Carson-Newman has played this season.

The only non-starter from last week to move into the top five is Will Collins (Knoxville, Tenn.), who was an individual at the Intercollegiate with a +20 finish that was good enough for a share of 54th.

This is just the second time this season that the freshman has appeared as a starter, the other time being at the Cougar Invitational where he sat in the fifth spot. So far, Collins' average score stands at 75.8 through nine rounds.

This event is typically one that holds a substantial amount of nationally ranked talent, especially in the top 10. This year, the only top-tier team taking part is the hosting eighth-ranked Lions who are not only in the Golf Coaches' Association of America poll but also No. 14 in the Golfstat rankings. Outside of that, also making the top 25 in the latest GCAA poll is No. 12 Nova Southeastern, sitting at No. 15 according to Golfstat.

"Two of the best teams perennially in the country are there plus some other really solid teams," Wylie said. "I think the only way to go into it is to go into it with a lot of respect for our opponents. We have a chance to go down there and beat two of the top teams in the country and go down there and try to do that.

"If we play at the level I know we can play at, we can do that down there at this golf course in this tournament."

Carson-Newman is the only SAC school in a field loaded with teams that are ultimately vying for spots in the NCAA South/Southeast Regional later in May. Of the 13 teams competing, nine are from the regions. C-N and Barton are the only two Southeast representatives while Saint Leo, Valdosta State, Lee, Nova Southeastern, Barton, Tampa and Eckerd all hail from the South region.

Nova Southeastern returns to the event as the reigning champion with a 19-under performance a year ago.

Monday will consist of two rounds of play before a single round will close the tournament on Tuesday. Live scoring throughout the event will be available through Golfstat.