ATHENS — The NCAA Men’s Golf Regional at the UGA Golf Course is underway today and the Bulldogs are feeling good about advancing to the NCAA Championships.
And why shouldn’t they? There has been a lot of good karma oozing out of the Bulldogs’ clubhouse at the Boyd Golf Center here lately.
University of Georgia golfers or alums have been winning tournaments all over the place for the past year or so, including those played right there off their back porch. Two weeks ago Hudson Swafford holed a bunker shot on the 72nd hole and shot a final-round 62 to win the Stadion Classic Nationwide Tournament at UGA. That came exactly a year after Swafford’s teammate Russell Henley won the same event as a UGA senior. Georgia alums Bubba Watson, Harris English, Chris Kirk, Erik Compton and Brendan Todd all have won tournaments in the last year.
So with the Bulldogs playing a regional on their home turf, there has to be some good vibes flowing. Right?
“There are a lot of good things going on, with our alums, with the program,” Georgia coach Chris Haack said. “Everybody feels good about the direction these young guys are going. It’s just a fun time of year. Championship season is always a fun time.”
The challenge for this particular group of Bulldogs is living up to that standard. This is one of Georgia’s youngest teams in years, featuring a junior, three sophomores and a freshman. Only junior T.J. Mitchell and sophomore Joey Garber have any NCAA tournament experience.
Mitchell helped get the Bulldogs into the NCAA championships in 2011 and Garber helped Michigan win its regional and finish 10th overall last season before transferring to Georgia this year.
Garber believes the accomplishments of other Bulldogs past and present helps fuel their confidence.
“People expect a lot from us, but we’ve also shown that we can do it,” said Garber, who shot 4-under par for the Wolverines in the NCAAs last year. “Just based on Russell winning last year and Hudson this year, it shows we’ve got the talent to do it every week in this program.”
Of course, nothing is given in golf, and only the top five teams advance. No. 4 seed Georgia is playing host to a talented field, including No. 1 seed Alabama, No. 2 North Florida and No. 3 New Mexico. Also included is defending national champion Augusta State, a nine seed.
“I hate this week probably more than any week in the year,” Haack said. “Regionals are always one of those weeks where you have everything to lose and nothing to gain. Because if you make it, all you’re doing is moving on really. So I’ve always been on edge this particular week.”