As the championship part of Mercer’s golf schedule quickly approaches, the Bears have several goals that are still set clearly in their sights. During the fall semester schedule, new Head Coach Steve Bradley and new Assistant Coach Jacob Davidson were still trying to feel out their new team while dealing with injuries and other distractions.
Despite attempting to work out all of the kinks, the Bears did not finish outside of 10th place in any round of their three fall tournaments. Their best finish was during the second round of The Brickyard Collegiate, hosted in Macon, in which Bradley’s team finished the day in fourth place, ahead of such well-known schools as the University of Georgia, Virginia Tech, Ole Miss and Oklahoma.
With everyone healthy and eligible to play, however, the Bears are playing harder and better than ever, working towards their goal of reaching the post-season. That is something Mercer has never accomplished. To do so, Bradley’s team will have to notch a record above 0.500 throughout the season, which only consists of seven events plus the Atlantic Sun Championship. The Bears also have to finish ranked in the top 70 nationally if they want to make history with their first post-season trip, all while playing against a very talented Atlantic Sun field, containing number five University of North Florida, number 35 Kennesaw State University and number 62 Campbell University (as of Nov. 27, 2011, courtesy of golfweek.com).
Unfortunately for the orange and black, only one event this semester can even be considered a ‘home’ match–the Linger Longer Invitational at Great Waters Golf Course in Eatonton, Ga. on March 24-25. The Bears will co-host the event with the Owls of KSU. The rest of the season will see the team on the road in Florida, Alabama and North Carolina.
The Bears will look to ride the momentum from a sixth place finish at The Invitational at The Ocean Course in Kiawah Island, S.C., a tournament in which Mercer University finished ahead of the University of Notre Dame, the University of Kansas and conference rival USC Upstate, as they open up the season.
Redshirt sophomore Mike Hirthler anticipates success for Mercer, both this season, and in long term. “We are a young team, but with great senior leadership from Josh Cone,” said Hirthler. “We have a tough schedule, but you could see from all of the effort that the guys have put in during the off-season, both in the gym and on the course, that we are hungry to come into tournaments as underdogs and do some damage.”
Luckily for the Bears, however, the first tournament is in Jacksonville at TPC Sawgrass, a course that Coach Bradley considers one of the best in the nation. Bradley’s bunch tees off the spring schedule on Monday, Jan. 31.