Pretty much everything that could go wrong for Augusta State did last season. The Jaguars lost their top player, failed to win a tournament and did not qualify for the NCAA Division I National Championship.
Not exactly a banner year in the school's golf history.
"I hope it's going to make me a better coach," third-year coach Josh Gregory said. "It was definitely sickening.
"I know these guys are hungry."
The Jaguars get a fresh start when they tee off in the Inverness Intercollegiate Invitational today in Toledo, Ohio.
"We know we're a better team than what we did last year," senior Emmett Turner said.
Turner and fellow seniors Scott Jamieson and Kalle Edberg return along with sophomore Major Manning. Turner, Edberg and Jamieson all are coming off strong summers and appear to have their games in order for this season.
"The three of us are up top now," Jamieson said. "I think we're going to have a great year."
"The three of us are all playing well," Turner said. "And we've got some young kids who should help out."
The Jaguars, ranked No. 18 in Golfweek's preseason poll, have fallen from the top tier of elite golf programs since losing their top player, James Heath, in December.
The sophomore sensation posted a 70.13 stroke average and two top-10 finishes in three fall events last year.
But as Augusta State planned for a solid spring season and a fourth consecutive trip to the national championships, Heath returned home to England because of homesickness.
"We knew it would set us back a little bit," Turner said. "We knew we lost a great player. Everybody had to step up."
Heath's departure took a huge toll on the team as it opened the spring with 13th-place and 12th-place showings. The Jaguars eventually improved, even finishing second in the regular season-ending Maxwell Intercollegiate. Six days later, though, Augusta State wondered what happened after shooting 57-over-par and finishing 19th in the NCAA East Regional.
"We were actually starting to play well," Gregory said. "Unfortunately, we picked the wrong time to play poorly."
After the season, Turner and Jamieson found their games again. Turner, who's been working on his swing the past year and a half, posted three top-10 finishes in major amateur events.
Jamieson, who played inconsistent in the spring, shot 63 during the summer at his home course in Scotland, breaking the course record held by his father, Peter (64).
"This summer (golf) felt easy again," Jamieson said. "When you play bad, you don't want to practice. When you play well, you want to."
Edberg played well enough to lead Augusta State last season. The snappy-dressing Swede posted a pair of top-10 finishes in the spring and recorded a team-best stroke average (72.69). He was followed by Turner (73.6), Jamieson (74.25) and Manning (75.08).
Six freshmen dot this season's roster along with sophomore Wallace Booth (76.0). Redshirt freshmen Keith Guest, Hogan Kaney and Mark Poulsen, along with true freshmen Matt Dale, Roger Furrer and Mike Keast will all be vying for the team's No. 5 position.
Last year, Augusta State failed to win an event for the first time since the 1988-89 season.
"If we get solid contributions out of our (No.) 4 and 5 spots," Gregory said, "we're going to be really good."
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charting augusta state
COACH: Josh Gregory (third year)
CLASSIFICATION: NCAA Division I, Independent
LAST SEASON: Jaguars failed to win a golf tournament since the 1988-89 season.
KEY JAGUARS: Senior Kalle Edberg (72.69), senior Emmett Turner (73.6), senior Scott Jamieson (74.25), sophomore Major Manning (75.08)
GREAT YEAR IF: Edberg continues his strong play and Turner and Jamieson rebound from lackluster junior seasons. Also, Augusta State will need to develop consistency in the No. 5 position if it wants to return to the NCAA Championships.
BAD YEAR IF: One of the Big Three - Edberg, Jamieson and Turner - struggles, the No. 5 spot becomes a revolving door, and Jaguars fail to make national championships again.
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