Jay Seawell can't help but think of Jim Kelson, the man he succeeded as the Augusta State golf coach, every time Seawell goes to work.
Walking into the lobby of the university's PE/Athletic Complex on Wrightsboro Road, one of the first things that catches a visitor's eye is a glass-enclosed directory on a wall. It lists the room numbers for the Jaguar coaches' offices located down the hall.
Kelson's name is still there, even though he's been gone since June 3. Seawell has been aboard since Sept. 1 and hasn't made the directory yet.
Kelson may be gone -- he's coaching the University of Tennessee golf team -- but what he did at Augusta State hasn't been forgotten. In seven seasons, Kelson led the team to four NCAA Championship appearances and 11 tournament victories, including five last season.
No wonder Augusta State administrators are in no hurry to take his name down from the directory.
Understandably, the specter of Kelson's accomplishment hangs over the program. Seawell, who was the golf coach at Anderson (S.C.) College for seven years before coming to Augusta, even admits to being caught up in the Kelson legacy when he arrived in town.
"At the beginning, I said `what did Jim do?' I tried to walk the line of what Jim did because he was so successful," Seawell said. "He was successful because he recruited good players and he had his style. We have good players here and I just need to do my style. We're going to do just fine and these players are going to get better.
"The sooner we get past our thought-processes about Jim Kelson -- but remember him in a good way...," Seawell said, his words trailing off. "This is our team and these are the guys who represent Augusta State."
The pressure to follow up Kelson's success, plus the fact Seawell started as coach on the first day of fall practice and just 13 days before the first tournament no doubt played a role in the team's mediocre record in the fall season, which ended last week.
In four tournaments, Augusta tied for 13th place in the Palmetto Classic, tied for fourth place in the Cavalier Classic, finished ninth in the Adams Cup and 11th at Duke.
In contrast, Augusta won twice and finished second twice in those same four tournaments last year.
"My reaction to the fall season is one of disappointment," Seawell said. "We're better than we played, but golf is golf. It's a humbling game. I think we showed our talent a little bit in Virginia when we finished fourth and actually played better than that."
Ironically, the things that Seawell stresses the most as a coach -- the short game and course management -- are the two areas Augusta had the most problems with in the fall.
"I think you make more management mistakes when you press and try too hard," Seawell said. "The guys might have been trying to show the new coach how good they can be. I already know how good they can be."
The team consists of only two holdovers who played in 1997-98, Robert Duck and Jeff Keck. Enrique Penaredonda, who overcame testicular cancer last year, is back, as is Michael Webb. Those four golfers, along with 17-year-old freshman Jamie Elson, have played in all of Augusta's fall tournaments.
Gone is All-American Vaughn Taylor, along with underclassmen John Wells and Chris Roake, both of whom left school early and are thriving on the English men's team in their homeland.
"This year's team is totally different than last year's," Seawell said. "Talent-wise, I'm not saying we're not as good, but you can't teach experience. We're going to work hard and turn our cards in. If we're the lowest team in, we win.
"We're not going to go out there with the mindset that we're going to win five or six tournaments," Seawell said. "We're not there yet. Maybe being humiliated, for lack of a better word, during the fall, will motivate the guys to work on their games even more."
There will be another motivating factor when practice for the spring season begins in January. Only Duck is assured a spot on the traveling team for the first spring tournament. In addition to the five golfers who played in the fall season, the rest of the Augusta roster consists of Jamie Felder, Jake Adams, Matt Ricks and Jayce Stepp.
"I've opened it back up," Seawell said. "We have capable people to fill the 2-5 positions. But instead of me picking them, they'll get a chance to show what they can do. That way, there won't be any questions asked."
PARK FUND-RAISER: A fund-raising tournament for the Horse Creek/Midland Valley Veterans Park will be held Friday, Oct. 30, at Midland Valley Country Club. The format will be four-man captain's choice, and a shotgun start will be held at 8 a.m. The cost is $50 per person, which includes lunch and refreshments. For more information, call Wayne New at 593-5021
AUGUSTA CC: Steve Mulherin aced the 140-yard 14th hole with a 6-iron shot. The witness was Jack Banks.
Charles Rivers aced the 130-yard fourth hole with an 8-iron shot. The witnesses were David Thomas, Franklin Adams and Al Adams.
WOODSIDE: John Haupert aced the 10th hole on the Cupp Course with a 3-wood shot. The witnesses were Debbie Haupert, Arnold Aprahamian and Ruth Aprahamian.
Ron Turnipseed aced the 112-yard fourth hole on the Cupp Course with a sand wedge shot. The witnesses were Bob Strickland, Lowell Myers and Jackie Jackson.
GORDON LAKES: Don Schaum aced the 123-yard 13th hole. The witnesses were Sam Hagood, Floyd Husk and J.J. Etherington.
David Westin covers golf for The Augusta Chronicle and can be reached at 706-828-3215.
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