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Blazers’ Golf fares well in conference awards

The coaches representing the Gulf South Conference casted their votes, and on Monday, the results were released.

Now, I join in to present my own opinions on “Coach of the Year,” “Player of the Year,” and “Freshman of the Year”as well as my choices for an all-conference team.

So without further ado…

Player of the Year

For the Blazers, the lone man up for consideration is Matt Anderson, a senior out of Lakeland, Florida who has made his mark already with All-GSC honors in the previous two seasons.  This year, the top Blazer added to his résumé with his first career win at the UIS Island Getaway in Puerto Rico.

At Lake Jovita, he made 14 birdies to come in a tie for 2nd.

This past week, Anderson made arguably the most significant turnaround of the year, posting a 77 on Sunday, waking up, and then improving that number by 11 shots for a GSC Championship-low 66.

For the year, Anderson has lead his team in eight of the team’s nine tournaments that he completed, and his scores have counted in all but one of his 28 rounds.

Teammate Davis Smith makes the case for the Blazers’ most valuable player:

“I believe Matt Anderson is the best player in the GSC,” Smith said.  “Matt has shown all year that he battled through every round.”

“If things aren’t going great in his round, he battles and turns it around.  I’ve noticed some other great golfers in the GSC kind of bow down and give up when things aren’t going their way, and Matt doesn’t do that.”

Others in the conference come to mind also, but for me, the honor boils down to just two.

In a classic argument of results vs. competition, my top two candidates only appeared in the same tournament twice, including the conference championship event. They split those decisions.

Zach Zediker, the man who won the award given out by the coaches, won four events this year, three of them coming in his first four events, the fourth one being his five shot victory over Anderson and fellow Blazer Gage Smith last week in Mobile.

In total, Zediker finished in the top five in six of his eight appearances, a March 4th and 5th event hosted by Mississippi college being cancelled.

My other candidate, West Florida’s Christian Bosso won on three occasions, but against a much more difficult schedule.

According to GolfStat, Bosso has a 74.78 rank of schedule rating, while Zediker’s is at 75.91, a major difference based on how the calculation works.

Throughout the year, Bosso has played events against the nation’s cream of the crop regardless of conference, with the top players from the Sunshine Conference as well as the Gulf South routinely present among others.

Factor in his own teammates, and it is obvious that the competition was far superior on a tournament-by-tournament basis.

Those in the Zediker camp will point to the Statesman’s victory at Magnolia Grove, but Bosso had the upper hand in Pensacola, although you could make the case that playing at one’s home course is more advantageous than playing at the neutral course for the conference championship.

Zediker’s scoring average is at 69.7, whereas Bosso’s is at 71.67.

These numbers actually favor Bosso, however, who played on courses that included PGA National in conditions that made one of the toughest PGA Tour layouts even more difficult, Copperhead, a demon which features “The Snake Pit,” and Kinderlou, where Delta State wasn’t present.

When accounting for the tees being moved up a little at Kinderlou, the average course rating provides a 2.21 conservative cushion for Bosso, factoring in every round at each venue.

I give the edge to Christian Bosso.

Coach of the Year

The coaches themselves selected Bosso’s coach at West Florida, Steve Fell.

This season, Fell was given the task of replacing Chandler Blanchet, a transcendent talent who dominated Division II golf over the last three years.  Among his accomplishments are the feat being named First Team Ping All-American three times, becoming just one of only three players to be named All-GSC four times, and winning the individual national championship in 2017.

The loaded 2018 National Champion Argonauts also featured another First Team All-American in Henry Westmoreland IV.

Without these key players from the year before, his team put forth a last place finish in their opener at TPC Tampa Bay.

It quickly changed for the Argos as they finished in the top five in all but one event the rest of the way, winning three of them, including their last two.

No one questions that Fell’s team was the best in conference this season, but in terms of this award, one objection to his winning of the prize could be that, even with those very significant departures, his roster was still quite strong coming back as they were voted as the No. 2 team in the preseason Coaches Poll.

Valdosta State, on the other hand, began the year outside of the top 25, an unknown with three freshmen in their lineup.

Under Coach Jared Purvis’ guidance, the team exceeded all expectations with the trio of freshman making a quick name for themselves at the Country Club of Columbus and Senior Matt Anderson doing what he normally does, except this year he won his first career event and provided several other notable scores as mentioned earlier.

The ride hasn’t been as smooth for the Blazers as it’s been for the Argos, but Purvis has remained patient with his group of freshmen and has stayed positive even when the team has finished poorly.

For the Blazers, he’s more than just a golf coach.

Smith describes the former team captain of the Troy Trojans as being “an amazing coach” who has taught him “so much” about the game and life itself.  He calls him “easily the best coach I could ask for” and considers him “great with dealing with adversity.”

Jared Purvis gets the nod for what he has done to take VSU to their first Super Regional since 2013.

“He’s overcome a lot and recruited so well for this team,” Sophomore Wesley Hanson said.  “Our toughness stems from him.”

Freshman of the Year

One of the more difficult decisions lies in deciding the conference’s top freshman, a race that comes down to three.

Lucas Mota, a Barcelona product for West Georgia, broke the Wolves school record when he debuted with a 64 in the first round of Montevallo’s Full Moon Invitational.

Mota’s recent finish over Brock Healy gives him an edge, but he also finished behind VSU’s Gage Smith in Mobile, making the discussion all the more confusing.

In terms of the two Blazers, Smith has played better as of late, but one could argue that Healy has been more consistent throughout the year.

The three of them have only played in two of the same events, the aforementioned GSC Championship and the Cougar Invitational way back in September.

It was a long time ago, but it still counts, and both Blazers got the better of Mota in that tournament by two shots.

Considering that and the Blazers’ much tougher schedule, I’ll favor the top Blazer freshmen here, and by a smidgen, I’ll take Brock Healy based on the full body of work.

In total tally, the two tied at Columbus and Healy got the better of Gage in five events, while Smith got the better of Healy in three.

At Cuscowilla, Healy had been playing better prior to a wrist injury forcing him to withdraw.

“He never gives up, and he grinds through every round,” Davis Smith said.  “It’s awesome to watch.”

All-GSC-Team

Christian Bosso, Sr. from West Florida

He was the best player for the GSC’s best team. 

Zach Zediker, Jr. from Delta State

He’s had 12 rounds in the 60s in 23 tries.  Beyond that, he’s currently GolfStat’s 7th best player in DII Golf.

Matt Anderson, Sr. from Valdosta State

He’s made the all-conference team for the 3rd straight year and has rightfully earned a place on VSU’s list of great ones, a leader by example for this young 2018-19 unit.

 Sam Jones, Sr. from West GeorgiaThe New Zealander posted one of the most impressive scores of the year when he turned in a 61 in the final round of the Buccaneer Spring Classic to win the event by seven and beat Zediker by 10.  He also won the UNG Fall Invitational with a 65 and 64 in rounds two and three.

Juan Igna de Giacomi, So. from West Florida

In 6 tournament appearances, the Argentine has posted an impressive 72.22 scoring average, while serving as the No. 3 team in the nation’s strong second option.

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

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