Jay Seawell is a dreamer.
After a strong fall season, though, the Augusta State golf coach's dreams may soon become reality.
"I always use the word `dream,"' he said. "We dream of a national championship. That's our dream. If you shoot too low, you never reach the high marks. And we set a very high goal."
Under second-year coach Seawell, Augusta State has suddenly found itself in position to be one of the top golf teams in the nation. On the strength of four top-five finishes this fall, the Jaguars are ranked No. 17 by the GolfweekSagarin computer rankings. Also, Augusta is ranked No. 19 in the latest Mastercard Collegiate Rankings.
"We want to be a top-15 team at the end of the spring," Seawell said. "If we can get that good then in one week anything can happen."
Last year, the Jaguars struggled in the fall with three of its four finishes ninth place or higher. However, the team recovered by the end of the golf season to make the NCAA Division I National Championships for the fifth time in the past seven years.
"Last year, we were just excited that we made it," said sophomore golfer Michael Webb. "When we got there we were just lackadaisical. Just trying to make the cut (in the regionals) isn't good enough. This year we need to go in and have a good top-five finish."
Augusta State's most impressive showing this fall was a second-place finish in the Iron Duke Classic when it defeated Georgia Tech and Northwestern, two of the top teams in the nation.
"We just played better than them," Webb said. "We proved ourselves. Jack (Doherty) played with Bryce Molder the last day of the event. Our 17-year-old freshman played with the former No. 1 player in the country and stood up and actually beat him that day."
Sophomores Jamie Elson and Webb, each winning one tournament, have been key to Augusta's success. Elson leads the team with a 72.22 stroke average, while Webb is next with a 73.44. Also, Elson is No. 10 in the nation in the current Golfstat Cup rankings followed by Webb (No. 22).
Sophomore Jayce Stepp has also been steady with a 74.22 stroke average and two top-20 finishes, while Doherty (75.14) has a top-10 finish. Junior Robert Duck (75.33) has been inconsistent, but is starting to come around.
"I'm really excited about going into spring," Duck said. "We've got five guys here who really look like they are starting to peak."
The last 18 months have been quite a change for Elson, who didn't know what to expect when he arrived last summer. Augusta State had just lost coach Jim Kelson to Tennessee, No. 1 golfer Vaughn Taylor and sophomores John Wells and Chris Roake.
"Before I did come, Jim Kelson left and Chris left," Elson said. "I was quite apprehensive before I came over. I didn't know what to expect. Last year, we were a young team. We've played better this fall because we have so much more experience than last year."
And it could get even better for the Jaguars. With a good SAT score this month, highly-touted recruit Adam Frayne would become eligible to play in the spring.
"He would definitely come in and compete," Seawell said. "We've had a long talk within the team and you've just got to take the best five. And that may mean taking someone out of the starting lineup. If anybody we bring in is going to improve the team then he will play."
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