VSU came into Crossings in need of a stout performance to ensure a postseason appearance.
They came in second place with the help of an all-time turnaround that occurred on Monday.
Three Blazers arrived on the grounds in the top 10 after Sunday, but two-time All-GSC performer Matt Anderson wasn’t one of them.
After an opening round 77, a session that didn’t include a single birdie, something changed for the senior.
In fact, a difference of 11 shots occurred in a round of six birdies and no blemishes.
The second round 66 moved Anderson from tied for 29th to a tie for 4th. It was the tournament low over three days, the low number by four shots for that particular round, and the fourth-lowest round relative to par in GSC Championship history.
“I knew Matt was going to grind to get that first round score back,” teammate Davis Smith said. “He did, and it was awesome for him.”
Freshman Gage Smith, coming off the first top ten of his college career, quickly joined Anderson in their push for the top spot on the leaderboard. The tandem combined to shoot 4-under on the front nine, helping to get within two of eventual winner West Florida at one point Tuesday.
For Smith, it was a great feeling when his team began climbing up the leaderboard.
“I knew we needed to keep the pedal down the whole way.” Smith shot even on the back, Anderson 3 over, and the Blazers finished just three shots shy of the nation’s No. 3 ranked team.
“I think we showed a lot of people that we can compete with the big name teams like West Florida,” Smith said. “Each round we had to count a bad score, and yet we almost won the tournament. If we can find that solid fourth score, we can beat any team in the country.”
Brock Healy finished 3rd for the Blazers, 17th overall, in his first conference tournament appearance. After a 1-over 73 put him in a tie with Gage and Davis Smith, he went on to put up a 6-over 78 on Monday.
In the final round, the top candidate for GSC Freshman of the Year made a move of his own with back-to-back birdies on Holes 4 and 5, but a bogey on the long par 3 8th and a 4 over 40 on the back side resulted in a 75 for the day.
While Anderson and Gage Smith came in 2nd individually for the event, it was Davis Smith who sparked Valdosta State in the early going on Sunday. With a birdie on 3 and two more the rest of the way, one of them coming on the 226-yard par 3 17th, he came into the clubhouse at 1-over for the first day.
Monday didn’t go as well for him as he had back-to-back bogeys at three different points and made another one on Hole 5.
Smith made bogey on that hole all three times this week.
Last year’s Conference Freshman of the Year Wesley Hanson went 79-81-76, with his first two scores not counting toward the team’s total. He came in 40th place out of 50, six shots behind Davis Smith who came in a three way tie for 28th.
The Blazers came into this event ranked 9th in the South Region Rankings, with 10 teams able to earn a spot in the postseason. They beat their biggest threat in Lee by four shots to go 5-1 against them in common tournaments.
The lone loss that VSU took to Lee came at the Argo Invitational, where two Blazers withdrew due to sickness, preventing the team as a whole from finishing.
No. 3 West Florida earned an automatic bid into the postseason field with their victory.
Zach Zediker of Delta State won the event as the only player in red numbers at 5-under.
This marked the first time the Blazers finished in the top two since 2010.
The NCAA Regional will take place on May 9-11 at Mission Inn, located in Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida.
The next Region Rankings will be released this Friday, and the official postseason field will be announced on April 26th.
Written by Bryant Roche, Staff Writer. Photo courtesy of VSU Athletics.
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