The day before Maverick Antcliff left with his team to Puerto Rico, he asked Augusta State men’s golf coach Kevin McPherson an important question.
What’s the dress code for the flight?
“It just dawned on me it’s his first tournament,” McPherson said.
After spending a year in limbo, the highly-touted Australian golfer finally joined the team in January. Because of an issue with his transcripts, Antcliff was forced to establish a year of residency in the United States before becoming eligible.
“It’s been a long time coming, I’m glad he stuck with it,” McPherson said. “It’s been pretty tough for him. He’s had to be patient.
“He probably flew under the radar a bit being from the other side of the globe. Hopefully, he makes a big impact for us. Potentially, he should be one of our top players.”
Antcliff, who’s expected to give the Jaguars a boost, will try to help his team recover from a disastrous fall season when they open their spring slate today in the Puerto Rico Classic at Rio Mar Country Club in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico. The 54-hole event runs through Tuesday.
Augusta State has to play well in its opening event of the spring or risk jeopardizing the rest of the season. The Jaguars are well below the 50 percent rule (26 percent), a qualifier for teams to reach postseason play.
“It’ll be a very good test for us,” McPherson said “It does have a little added pressure to it. We’ve kind of made our own bed.”
“This is probably our toughest tournament strength-of-schedule-wise. If we don’t win and finish in the top five or six it’ll be a successful tournament. If we go down there and play the way we know we can, it’ll obviously give us a big boost of confidence.”
Despite losing every starter off its 2011 national championship squad, Augusta State made postseason play last season. In the Athens Regional, the Jaguars fell four shots short of advancing back to the NCAA Championships.
This season, the task to make regionals will be much tougher. In the fall, Augusta State posted three finishes of 10th or worse in five tournaments.
The Jaguars enter the spring at minus-28, meaning they have to defeat 28 more teams than they lose to in their five remaining events.
Senior Derek Chang led the team in the fall with a 74.5 stroke average. The remaining five players – four of them underclassmen – posted stroke averages of 76 or worse.
“I think these guys understand it’s a young team, it’s a new team,” McPherson said. “It’s a new beginning for us. The fall was an eye-opener for the guys on the team.”