When he ordered plane tickets for his five golfers six weeks ago, coach Kevin McPherson assumed they would comprise his starting lineup to start the season.
At the conclusion of the six-round qualifying tournament, the Georgia Regents University coach proved himself correct. Sophomores Maverick Antcliff and Meechai Padung, junior Cody Shafer, senior Alex Wennstam and freshman Jackson Stroup finished as the top five players.
“This is what I predicted to start,” McPherson said. “Unless something drastic changes, these five guys will likely play all fall.”
The Jaguars open play today in the Olympia Fields Country Club/Fighting Illini Invitational just outside of Chicago. The 54-hole event, which features six top-20 teams, runs through Sunday.
Georgia Regents is looking to have a better fall than last year.
“On paper, we’ve got a stronger team this year,” McPherson said. “We’re still young, but we’ve got a good balance.”
Antcliff starts his first fall with the Jaguars after a transcript issue forced him to sit out a year. The Australian golfer joined the traveling squad in February and made an immediate impact, posting a team-best 72.63 average with three top-five finishes in seven events. Antcliff also added an amateur title during the summer, winning the Rice Planters in a six-hole playoff.
“He not only helped the team with his play, but he helped the rest of the team get better,” McPherson said. “He’s playing well, he’s playing with confidence.”
A newcomer looking to make an impact is Stroup, an Ohio native who graduated from high school in Naples, Fla. Stroup finished third in team qualifying to earn a spot in the lineup.
“He’s played well this summer,” McPherson said. “He’s far more mature than most 18-year-old freshmen.”
Wennstam and Shafer will provide veteran leadership. Wennstam posted a 74.0 average last season, with an appearance in the NCAA Regional as an individual along with Antcliff. Shafer (75.32) posted three top-20 finishes.
Padung played just seven tournaments with a 75.32 average. But Padung, who grew up in Columbia County, finished third in the Augusta City Amateur and later won team qualifying.
McPherson said this is the strongest team he’s had in three seasons. He added he doesn’t expect too much movement in the lineup.
“We might rotate one guy out the entire fall,” he said. I feel confident with our lineup.”