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Blazers face nation’s best in significant Southeastern Collegiate

Five of the top six ranked teams in the latest Coaches Poll will arrive at Kinderlou Forest Golf Club Sunday for an event that will play a major role in where VSU should sit in the South Region Rankings at the end of the season.

Playing in their only home tournament of the year, the Blazers will bring with them Senior Matt Anderson, who is coming off a stellar second-place finish in the St. Leo Invitational, the veteran Jordan Long, both of whom know every blade of grass on this course, and a well-seasoned trio of freshman who seem confident as ever heading in.

“We are very excited to play,” Long said.  “We had a good finish last weekend, but still didn’t play our best.  We’ve been working hard, and we’re just ready for everyone to put it all together at the same time and it could be really good.”

A great demand of this Davis Love design is the ability to harness this rush of excitement when temptation pressures players into taking potentially dangerous risks at a place that doesn’t provide much mercy.

“Staying positive and staying patient will be the most difficult part of these three rounds,” Davis Smith said.  “Kinderlou can bite even the best of players, so it should be a very fun tournament.”

Perhaps no two holes personify this concept better than Holes 4 and 5.

The 657-yard par 5 4th looks like a typical tree lined-hole from the tee box, but between the fairway and the green lies Kinderlou’s signature “deep, all-natural ravine,” which should take away any notion of going for it in two, although, with this hole’s length, it’s hardly a choice to begin with.

The 5th Hole is 195 yards at full-length and requires the players to carry the ravine at this testy par 3.  While there is plenty of room on the left side, if the pin is placed on the right side, a great risk presents itself for the players, but creates an exciting scenario for spectators.

In addition to these two on the front, the 16th will also have a major impact on the outcome, according to Long.

A relatively long par 4 that bends to the player’s left, trees are positioned to the right side of the fairway and a long bunker lies to the left.  A downhill shot toward a green with multiple tiers can create problems in a variety of ways.

A miss to either of the two left green side sand traps will cause a treacherous shot going forward with the three different levels of the green making an up-and-down that much more difficult.

Beginning with the 15th before it, the final four holes can all make or a break your round.

The key?

“Hit great shots and don’t short side yourself around the greens,” Gage Smith said.  “That’s really all you can do.”

Hitting it short on the par 3 17th could put a player in one of three bunkers that guard this small green.  On this hole, it is better to be a little long, using the the backstop to allow the ball to feed down for a birdie opportunity.

Kinderlou’s finishing hole can play at about 500 yards, but the par 4 will likely play shorter based on previous years.  Regardless of the length, it requires a well-placed approach given the slope of the green and a runoff to the left.

“The 18th green is tough,” Smith said.  “You have to hit your approach pin high to have a good look at birdie.”

According to Smith, the wind direction can have a great affect on the last three holes. For him, they aren’t nearly as difficult if the wind is coming from the north.

The best scoring opportunities for the players, according to Coach Jared Purvis, come on the par 5’s.  While some can be reachable, particularly No. 11 in the case of a downwind, many of them typically are not, according to Smith.

One of them happens to be the freshman left-hander’s favorite hole on the entire golf course.

“I would say my favorite hole on the course is No. 14 because the tee shot sets up for a right to left ball flight, which I like to hit with the driver, and the second shot sets up for a left to right ball flight, which I like to hit with my irons.”

Coming off a 7th place finish in VSU’s last event, Brock Healy has as much confidence as anyone in the field, despite being ranked 118th by GolfStat.

“Playing a home event gives me extreme confidence,” Healy said.  “After Saint Leo’s tournament, I learned that I can win one of these things.  I’ve shot 11 under for three days at Kinderlou; I know I can do that again.”

“My game is pretty solid right now,” Davis Smith said.  “Everything is starting to click it seems.”

The greatest opposition in VSU’s pursuit of an upset is No.1 Barry, who features No.1-ranked individual Jorge Garcia, No. 8-ranked Niclas Weiland, and 29th-ranked Tyler Bakich.

Barry has won four events in this year, including a win this past week at the Panther Invitational at Duran Golf Club, where they beat host Florida Tech by 10 shots.

The only team that has beaten Barry at all this year has been No. 2 Lynn, who came out the winner of the last two events where they were both participants, the Otter Invitational and the Matlock Collegiate Classic.

Lynn will be led by Tomas Gana and Jorge Villar, who have adjusted scoring averages of 71.59 and 71.42 respectively.

No. 3 West Florida will also be in the field, and they will feature Christian Bosso, the nation’s 2nd-ranked player, who won earlier this year at Copperhead and in the Otter Invitational.

Also in the field will be No. 4 Florida Tech, No. 5 Florida Southern, No. 8 St. Leo, No. 12 Nova Southeastern , No. 13 Limestone, and No. 23 Rollins.

In the more recently updated GolfStat Rankings, the top three are the same as the Coaches Poll, but Florida Southern is at No. 5, Florida Tech is at 6, Nova Southeastern is at 9, St. Leo is at 15th, Limestone is at 19th, and Columbus St. is at 23rd.

Rounding out the rest of the field is Rollins, Newberry, Lander, Montevallo, and Georgia College.

Heading into this event, GolfStat has VSU ranked at No. 40.  With 10 teams representing the South Region in the postseason, it appears that the Blazers are in the conversation.

“We are a contender to make postseason play at this point,” Purvis said.  “However, there are several other teams in the same position, so it’s key to stay focused where we can count only quality scores.”

Based on those GolfStat Rankings, the Blazers would be 9th in the region today.

While their scores won’t count toward VSU’s team score, Sophomore Wesley Hanson and Junior Thomas Jespersen will be playing in the event as individuals.

Unlike most college tournaments, the event will take place over three days beginning on Sunday and ending on Tuesday.  They will play 18 holes each day, instead of the typical practice of completing 36 holes in a particular day.

The players will begin their rounds on either 1 or 10, with the tee sheet starting at 8:30 am, and the last groups to go off will do so at 10:45 am, meaning they will not have a shotgun start either.

Written by Bryant Roche, Staff Writer. Photo Courtesy of VSU Athletics.

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