The team van is more symbolic than ever in college golf as the majority of teams and conferences resume play this spring after as many as 10 months off amid a lingering global pandemic. Many teams will play a regional schedule, Kennesaw State among them.
It’s fitting that one of the first spring college events on the East Coast, the Any Given Tuesday Intercollegiate, pays homage to that – Sprinter van tee markers and all. Kennesaw State head coach Bryant Odom said the roughly 350 miles from Kennesaw, Georgia, to this week’s tournament in Kiawah Island, South Carolina, may be the longest trip of the season.
After a 13-under team effort in Sunday’s opening round, it was a drive well worth it. No other team is within seven shots.
So far, a parking ticket has been Kennesaw State’s only setback.
In college golf, a Sprinter van may be iconic, but in Kiawah Island, it’s viewed more as an eyesore. In a laughable bit of irony, Odom got a call from security late the night of his team’s arrival, that such a van wasn’t permitted on the property where the team was staying. It was too late to move it and take a shuttle ride back, so Odom took his chances.
“I came out the next morning and the ticket was sitting there,” he said laughing.
It’s a minor obstacle amid the bigger picture.
“We’re just grateful to be out here on the road and play college golf. Anything from here is just the cherry on top, really.”
— Brian Stubbs, PGA (@prostubbs) January 24, 2021
Starting on the tougher back nine at Oak Point Golf Club, Kennesaw State offset most of their birdies with bogeys. Fifth-year senior Connor Coffee punctuated the opening half of his round with a triple-bogey 7.
Odom met him in the fairway of the par-5 first, where Coffee hit his second shot to 10 feet, and gave him a rallying speech – that there was a lot of golf ahead.
“He just went off,” Odom said. “That’s the kind of player he is, he can just catch fire in a bottle like that.”
Coffee made the putt for eagle at the first, birdied Nos. 2 and 3 then eagled the par-5 fourth, too. He eagled the par-5 eighth and birdied the ninth for a 9-under 27 after turning in 40.
Not everything is back to normal, though, and the 10 six-man teams in the event played in two groups of three teammates at Oak Point. Everyone on the Kennesaw State roster could rally around what Coffee was doing. The Owls’ four counters played the front nine in 14 under.
“Easiest day of coaching I’ve had,” Odom remarked. “I didn’t have to do much.”
Coffee, a native of Peachtree City, Georgia, is tied with Coastal Carolina’s Zack Taylor at the top of the individual leaderboard.
Remarkably, 320 days have passed since Kennesaw State’s last competitive round as a team. Most classes were online at Kennesaw State this fall, but the team still gathered 20 hours a week.
“Our goal all fall was to stay sharp and have fun without getting burned out,” he said. “…It was a long fall but we made the best of it, I guess. We just tried not to get burned out. If the guys wanted to focus on school, let them focus on school. If they wanted to do more golf practice and drills and grind, they could do that. There was never any pressure either way.”
It’s a sign of a successful fall that the thought of rust never once crossed Odom’s mind watching his team compete on Sunday.
“They were making great decisions, they were staying aggressive, it was like everything was forgotten,” he said.
COVID precautions brings widespread schedule jockeying into play for many teams, Kennesaw State included. The Owls will play seven regular-season events this spring, and five of those events will be at new venues, this week included. Four of them are new on the college golf schedule, period.
All things being normal, Kennesaw State would have played a University of Greensboro-hosted event in Puerto Rico this month. The Auburn-hosted Tiger Invitational also went off the schedule when the SEC announced it would give priority to in-conference competition.
But Odom gained the Sea Palms Invitational at St. Simons Island, Georgia. The Atlantic Sun Conference championship will be at a new venue, the University of Georgia Golf Course in Athens, Georgia, too.
“I really like the way it played out with the events we have on our schedule now,” Odom said.
And that starts with Oak Point.
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2021/01/24/college-golf-any-given-tuesday-kennesaw-state/