By Rob Schabert, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Chasing their highest team and individual finishes yet in the tournament, the Tennessee Tech men's golf team will co-host the fourth annual Bobby Nichols Intercollegiate at the Sevierville Golf Club Sunday through Tuesday.
Joining the Tech women's team, the Golden Eagle men will welcome golfers from 19 different schools for an expanded-format for what has become a popular tournament played on two parallel courses.
The men's field of 12 teams will play the longer River Course, while the women, also featuring a field of 12 teams, will navigate the Highlands Course. Teams will play 18 holes each on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, with team and individual champions crowned Tuesday afternoon. A five-player all-tournament team will also be announced.
Coach Polk Brown's men's squad has finished fourth, fifth and seventh in the previous three tourneys, named for former Golden Eagle player and coach Bobby Nichols, a member of numerous Halls of Fame. Tech's highest individual finish in the tourney has been sixth.
THE BOBBY NICHOLS INTERCOLLEGIATE: The tournament will feature 18 holes on three consecutive days on the River Course at the Sevierville Golf Club. The course will play at par 72 all three days, with distances changing slightly each day. Sunday's setup will be at 6.972 yards, the longest of the event. Monday it will be at 6,888 yards and on Tuesday the tees will make it a 6,822-yard challenge. Play will begin at 10 a.m. EDT each day with a shotgun start. For more information about Sevierville Golf Club, visit this link: http://www.seviervillegolfclub.com/
GOLDEN EAGLE LINEUP: The Golden Eagle lineup will include senior Mitch Thomas, freshman Matthew Giles, senior Neil Gannaway, senior Bryce Kendrick, and sophomore A.J. Wilkerson. redshirt The Golden Eagles will also have two players competing as individuals in freshman Ben Huskey and freshman Alexander Riddle.
THE COMPETITION: Joining the Golden Eagles in the 12-team field will be squads from Austin Peay, Carson-Newman, Evansville, Jacksonville State, Murray State, Oakland, Samford, Southern Illinois, Tennessee State, Western Kentucky and Wright State. UT Martin will have four players in the field, competing individually.
LAST YEAR AT SEVIERVILLE: The Golden Eagles finished fifth last year at the 15-team Bobby Nichols Intercollegiate, with Mitch Thomas leading the way with a sixth place individual showing at 212. Alexander Riddle and Lee Whitehead tied for 15th place at 216, Adam Cunningham placed 51st at 224, and Bryce Kendrick was 73rd at 231. Neil Gannaway (76th place/236) and A.J. Wilkerson (77th/237) played as individuals. Jacksonville State captured the team crown, while Southern Illinois and Murray State tied for second. West Georgia edged Tech by one stroke for fourth place. JSU's three-round score of 852 (-12) was the lowest 54-hole score in tournament history. The Gamecocks' third-round total of 277 was also the lowest in the history of the event. Tomasz Anderson of Jacksonville State claimed individual medalist honors by shooting three rounds under 70 for a three-round total of 205 (-11), the lowest 54-hole total in tournament history.
AN ANNUAL EVENT: This year's tournament will be the fourth annual Bobby Nichols Intercollegiate. Tech's top finish came in 2013-14 when the Golden Eagles placed fourth, with Bryce Kendrick claiming sixth place individually. Tech was seventh in the inaugural event in 2012-13, with Lee Maxwell claiming the team's highest finish in 12th place.
ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM: The Golden Eagles have not placed a player on the five-player all-tournament team in the previous three years of the event. Tech's best individual finishes have been a pair of sixth-place showings, with Bryce Kendrick missing the honor list by one spot in 2013-14, and Mitch Thomas placing sixth last year.
THOUGHTS FROM COACH BROWN: " The guys finished very strong the final two round at the Grover Page (last week), and we look to build on this momentum in Sevierville. As with the girls, we have had some success here in the past. This is our final event for a three week in-a-row stretch, and we look to close it out strongly before taking a couple of weeks to get ready for TSU. The guys are ready."
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Whichever team can survive what is expected to be a difficult first day will have the advantage in the 54-hole tournament. Weather could play a factor on Sunday, but excellent conditions should greet players on Monday and Tuesday, and make for setting up an interesting challenge for the teams that come out of the first day in contention.
WEATHER FORECAST: The forecast starts on the low end but improves over the course of the tournament. Sunday's high is projected at 48 degrees with a 50 percent chance of afternoon showers and winds at 10-15 mph. The rain should move out overnight, and Monday's forecast calls for a high of 55 under mostly sunny skies and winds under 10 mph. Things look great for the final round Tuesday, with sunny skies and a high of 68 with light winds around 6-8 mph.