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Healy, Blazers come with vengeance to Pensacola

On June 4, 1905, Pensacola became the first home for private club golf in Florida when Wm H. Knowles acquired a golf course that lay within the territory of the Navy Park Driving Association.

Not only was Knowles the president of this association but also happened to be the man who gained possession of the Pensacola Country Club in 1902.

Originally a social club where its members played tennis, croquet, and took part in other activities, golf quickly became an important aspect of the establishment.

A lease of the Palmetto Beach Property in 1925 allowed for the construction of a back nine.

Membership grew and so did the club’s prestige.

It became the host of the PGA Tour’s Pensacola Open and soon titans such as “The King” Arnold Palmer and Gary Player began winning there.

On Monday, the Blazer golf team will arrive with the same goal, starting with Brock Healy, who returns after a wrist injury took him out of last week’s Bobcat Invitational.

“My thoughts on coming back are to beat everyone in this tournament,” Healy said.  “I’m angry that I had to withdraw last tournament, and I’m going to try to make up for that by playing really well.”

Following a 14th-place finish in that last event, the team as whole will look to turn the page.

Matt Anderson, the Blazers’ best player this year, put forth his worst effort this spring, perhaps of the entire year, coming in a tie for 63rd after a string of solid performances.  With that result, the two-time All-GSC performer fell from 28th to 43rd in GolfStat’s individual rankings.

In a shift from the norm, it has been determined that Sophomore Wesley Hanson will be inserted into the lineup.

“I feel really good and really confident,” Hanson said.  “I’ve played good, consistent golf this spring and am excited to make the most of this week.”

The last time Hanson appeared in tournament action was as an individual at Kinderlou, where he came in a tie for 33rd, outplaying two Blazers who were in the lineup.

Completing the trio of freshman as usual will be Davis Smith and Gage Smith.

Out of the lineup will be Jordan Long, but he will still be making the trip as an individual.  His scores won’t count for the team, although his presence in Pensacola can’t be underestimated since he’s been on these grounds before, being a junior veteran.

The layout from the back is measured at 6,815 yards, a par 72 that begins with three par 4s, followed by the 179-yard par 3 4th that is listed as the course’s second easiest hole.

The toughest hole on the course by rating is the 6th, a 537-yard par 5 that features water running down the right side almost the whole way through and even well past the green.  With a narrow fairway and bunkers on the left, the tee shot requires accuracy, but so does the green.

A large bunker on the left, a bunker protecting the front right, and another one behind the green force the players to take the approach shot just as seriously.

Interestingly, three of Pensacola’s par 5s are listed as the venues three most difficult holes, the other being Nos. 14 and 8.

According to Coach Jared Purvis, the most crucial are Holes 17 and 18.

No. 17 is a relatively long 458-yard par 4 with water left and out of bounds right.

“You must be fully focused on your target off the tee,” Purvis said.

The 18th isn’t particularly long, but a bay sits behind this long, narrow green that is surrounded by bunkers.  Depending on the wind, the players will have either a short or long iron in to this treacherous finishing hole.

VSU enters the event ranked 39th in the GolfStat rankings, a contender for the postseason, but not quite a guarantee.

Based on those rankings, Barry, Lynn, West Florida, Florida Southern, Florida Tech, Nova Southeastern, St. Leo, and Rollins would all be locks.

Where it gets interesting is the pursuit of spots nine and 10.

With one of those two spots being designated to the winner of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, the other one would remain up for grabs for the last couple of weeks.

While Lee could be seen as a contender, being GolfStats’ 30th-ranked team, the Blazers have gone 4-0 against them head-to-head.

Purvis says “nothing” will be on the line this week.

“Just need to get back on track and play the golf we are capable of playing.”

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

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