A tough day on the course for some of the Coastal Georgia golfers caused the Mariners’ women’s golf team to slide out of first place on the second and final day of the college’s annual Winter Invitational, while the men used their big cushion to hold on to the top spot.
The Coastal men shot a 4-over 580 over two days at the Brunswick Country Club, finishing in first place — 11 strokes ahead of second place Thomas University. The women competed at King and Prince Golf Course, where Coastal finished third with a score of 638 behind Southeastern (628) and Eastern Florida State (631).
Playing in the program’s first tournament of the spring season, it was a solid start for the nationally-ranked NAIA golf teams.
“It was good to see the guys get back in action, they were ready to go,” said CCGA men’s coach Mike Cook. “It’s been a long time since we competed. The last time we competed was in late October.”
The Mariners’ men are ranked No. 2 in the NAIA having won three of the four events they played in during the fall season, and they were in the driver’s seat racing towards another tournament title at the completion of the first day of the Winter Invitational.
Coastal’s men saw five golfers among the top 10 after Day 1, helping the team build a 10-stroke cushion by shooting a 6-under 282. Even though they weren’t eligible for the tournament championship, the Mariners’ ‘B’ team also put together a strong first round and sat in third place going into Day 2.
As the wind picked up on Tuesday, both Coastal Georgia men’s teams saw their scores rise as they struggled a bit with distance control.
The ‘A’ team shot a 10-over 298 — 16 strokes worse than the first round. The ‘B’ team had 14 more strokes on Day 2, finishing tied for fourth overall at 28-over 604.
“We might have been a little rusty,” Cook said.
Although the men’s teams had their ups and downs, there were still a few Mariners that put together standout performances.
Mark David Johnson, the top-rated player in the NAIA, nearly won the fourth individual tournament of his senior season as he finished tied for second at 2 under for the invitational. The only golfer to shoot better than Johnson was his Coastal teammate Jackson Lawlor, who earned his first victory by shooting 7-under par.
A part of the Mariners’ ‘B’ team, thus competing as an individual for scoring purposes, Lawlor was the only golfer with a sub-70 round at the Brunswick Country Club on Tuesday as he put a stranglehold on the top of the leaderboard.
“He’ll be on ‘A’ team the rest of the year,” Cook said. “He played great.”
In four tournaments over the fall season, Lawlor earned sixth place, eighth place twice, and 13th. After adding a win to his resume, Cook expects him to play with the traveling squad the rest of the year.
“The team has to play five, count four scores, and he just missed making that fifth spot,” Cook said. “He was a regular starter last fall. He just got off to a slow start getting back from Christmas I guess.
“That’s good to see that (Lawlor) and a couple of other kids played well from that ‘B’ team. It wasn’t just him, but he really stood out. I know he’s a championship player, but he gets his first win, this is his first medalist win, and he’s just a sophomore.”
Aside from Lawlor and Johnson, Eli Scott represented Coastal among the top five golfers in the men’s field, finishing the tournament at 1 under. Kyle Kidd also snuck into the top 10 with a 3 over.
On the women’s side, Kylee Wheeler was the Mariners’ individual standout with a 10 over, finishing in a tie for third just three strokes back of medalist Kacey Walker of Eastern Florida. Walker had the low score on Day 2 at 72.
Keista Elder also finished in the top 10 for the Coastal women, tied for seventh at 13 over.
It was a difficult round for the Mariner women at the King and Prince on Tuesday as they shot a 36 over 324 to drop them out of the pole position they occupied entering the day. No. 24-ranked Coastal Georgia led eventual first- and second-place teams Southeastern and Eastern Florida by five and three strokes, respectively, at the conclusion of the first day.
Next up for Coastal Georgia women is the Citadel Match Play Tournament at Patriots Point Golf Course in Mt. Pleasant S.C., on Feb. 25-26 and the Brenau Golden Tigers Spring Invitational at the Chattahoochee Golf Club in Gainesville on March 18-19.
The Mariners’ men will take a trip to Okatie, S.C., the first week of March to compete in the USC Beaufort Sandshark Spring Invitational, and following a dual match a few days later, Coastal is set to trek to Primm Valley Golf Course in Nevada for the NAIA Battle at the Primm.
The Sun Conference Championship will tee off in April, and the NAIA National Championships will be held in May.