The Mercer men’s golf team had a disappointing beginning to the spring season, coming in ninth in the Sea Best Invitational at TPC Sawgrass, hosted by Jacksonville University.
Heading in the final round on Tuesday, Jan. 31, the Bears were in sixth. After the last round, however, they were in ninth place. “I’m really disappointed in the way we played today,” Mercer head coach Steve Bradley said, “We had a chance to move up but it just didn’t happen for us.”
The orange and black finished the tournament with a stroke total of 925, with round totals of 304, 306, and 315, respectively. Redshirt junior John Gregory Joseph and sophomore James Beale lead the team through the first two rounds, each with a 151 shot total, which had them tied for 18th place individually. By Monday’s end, the Bears were in sixth place, ahead of Atlantic Sun Conference rivals East Tennessee State, Florida Gulf Coast and Jacksonville.
During the final round of the Sea Best Invitational, however, Mercer slipped up. Although the final round of the tournament was their worst round, senior Josh Cone stepped up and made a personal charge, finishing the day with a team best 75.
“Overall it was a pretty frustrating tournament,” said Cone. “We were in a decent spot coming into the final round and just flat out didn’t have it the last day. We’ve got to get a lot tougher moving forward because we cannot have another total team collapse like we did the last day. I think that we will learn from this and that we will only get better moving into the heavier portion of our spring schedule,” he added.
Unfortunately for the Bears, they finished the tournament one stroke behind conference foes Florida Gulf Coast, as well as five strokes back from East Tennessee State.
Although frustrated by his team’s performance, Bradley said that the setback could not have come at a better time. “If we have played well, we’d be singing a different tune. But if we had just gotten lucky, well that’s not good for long-term success,” said Bradley. After identifying some problems that became evident, the Bears have changed up things at practice and that the players are challenging each other. Senior Cone echoed Coach Bradley in saying that, “We have had a team meeting to discuss it and I think we have already moved past it and are excited about preparing to play in Mobile.”
The Bears have two weeks off to implement their new training schedule, as Mercer doesn’t return to action until Feb. 20 at Mobile Bay Intercollegiate at Magnolia Grove Crossings GC in Mobile, Ala. Other teams that will be attending include the University of Kentucky, the University of Illinois, Mississippi State University, Vanderbilt University, and Wake Forest University.
Coach Bradley noted that he is looking forward to the test against such big name schools. He believes that his team is up to the challenge. “They have the talent to compete [against big schools],” said Bradley. “They have got to believe in themselves,” he added.