Augusta State men’s golf coach Kevin McPherson called his first year at the helm a success.
Hired to replace Josh Gregory in July, McPherson had the unenviable task of replacing all five starters off the Jaguars’ 2011 NCAA Division I national championship squad. After winning back-to-back national titles, the program went straight into rebuild mode.
While Augusta State didn’t win a tournament, the Jaguars posted a pair of runner-up finishes and advanced to postseason play. At the NCAA Athens Regional, Augusta State missed advancing to the NCAA Championships – held Tuesday through Sunday at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif. – by four shots.
“It’s been a good year,” McPherson said. “To me, it wasn’t a fluke. We had a lot of good players.”
Augusta State will be young in the fall, but that doesn’t mean the team won’t be good, McPherson said. The Jaguars offset the losses of seniors Taylor Floyd, who led the team with a 72.97 stroke average, and Brendan Gillins, with the addition of Jack Heasman and Maverick Antcliff. Heasman, an Englishman who graduated from high school at 16 and then spent two years playing amateur golf, was forced to sit out a year and lose a year of eligibility by the NCAA because of a new rule. He will be eligible in the fall. Antcliff is a different story.
He entered Augusta State in January and still has a lingering issue with his transcripts; the NCAA has yet to clear him. McPherson said he’s still trying to get Antcliff’s official transcripts from an Australian high school. Antcliff’s status is uncertain for the fall, but he will be eligible in January at the latest, McPherson added.
“I’m still trying to get that squared away,” he said.
With the addition of Antcliff and Heasman, McPherson signed a pair of players who will be freshmen in the fall. Augusta State added Meechai Padungsiriseth, who lived in Columbia County from ages 9 to 13 and later went to the IMG Leadbetter Golf Academy in Bradenton, Fla. Padungsiriseth is ranked No. 131 in the American Junior Golf Association rankings.
“He knows all about Augusta,” McPherson said. “He wanted to come back and play for us.”
Augusta State also is adding Viktor Edin, of Sweden, a member of his country’s national team. Edin won the 2010 Junior Masters Invitational Tour final in his native country.
“I think both guys have a really good chance of playing in the fall,” McPherson said. “It will be a fairly young team. My goal is to give these guys the experience of playing. The talent level is really good”
Augusta State returns three members off its regional lineup – freshman Robin Petersson (73.97 stroke average), sophomore Alex Wennstam (75.46) and junior Derek Chang (75.15). The Jaguars also return sophomore Shawn Yim and freshman Cody Shafer.
Shafer, a former Greenbrier standout, posted a 76.3 stroke average but has improved, McPherson said.
“Cody’s getting better now,” he said. “He got off to a rough start in the fall. Cody’s a very solid player. He should come in and compete for a spot.”
McPherson said he wants his players to understand winning a national championship is not an easy task. Augusta State will have to work as hard as it did in recent years to return to the nation’s elite.
“Hopefully, they know every single shot matters,” McPherson said. “We were disappointed not to make it back to nationals. In the past, it was a given.”