April 15, 2009
The Tennessee men's golf team makes its third straight trip to Georgia this weekend, although the stakes have become considerably higher.
League bragging rights are on the line when the 2009 SEC Men's Golf Championship begins Friday on St. Simons Island. Frederica Golf Club is the site for a second consecutive year, playing to a par of 72 at 7,217 yards.
"We're certainly looking forward to competing at a great golf course," UT head coach Jim Kelson said. "It's a difficult and challenging golf course with extraordinarily fast greens.
"This is our championship and I think everybody realizes that we need to come out and play very well to be competitive."
Paisley is eager for Friday's opening round. Ranked 30th nationally by Golfstat, Paisley turned in his second-worst showing as a collegian during his most recent outing at the Administaff ASU Invitational. The senior scored for the Vols in only one round and finished tied for 71st, his worst result since finishing 102nd at the 2007 NCAA Championships to conclude his sophomore campaign.
For the year, Paisley ranks fourth in the SEC with a 71.96 stroke average. He leads the Vols with 14 rounds of par or better and captured medalist honors at the Arizona Invitational, one of five top-10s this season for the Newcastle, England, product.
Wingardh captured a tie for third at the Administaff, his third top-10 this season. Currently seventh in the SEC with a 72.48 stroke average, Wingardh owns 12 rounds of par or better. The sophomore from Morarp, Sweden, won the Ping/Golfweek Preview Invitational back in September and currently ranks 61st nationally by Golfstat.
Holmes carries a stroke average of 73.48 that ranks 24th in the SEC. The junior from Knoxville has carded eight rounds of par or better, including his two most recent scores at the Administaff. Holmes' best finish was a tie for ninth at the Wolf Pack Classic in October.
Renwick stands fourth on the squad and 39th in the SEC with a 74.08 average. The freshman from Worthing, England, stumbled to a tie for 68th at the Administaff, but the spring season otherwise has been kind. Renwick owns three top-20 finishes in his last five events.
Lawrence makes his fifth start for the Vols and first since the Arizona Invitational back in early February. He competed as an individual at the Administaff, finishing in a tie for 56th. The sophomore from Brentwood sports a 74.80 stroke average and had his best result at the Ping/Golfweek Preview, where he tied for eighth place.
"We're excited and ready to go down and have a good week," Kelson said of his squad. "They've done a good job of preparing, and now it's just up to them to enjoy the tournament. It's just going to be 'on the day' as they say."
Tough competition brings out the best this Vols edition. Tennessee owns a trio of second-place trophies in 2008-09, all having been won in three of the nation's most prestigious events -- Carpet Capital Collegiate, Ping/Golfweek Preview Invitational and last month at the Schenkel E-Z-Go Invitational in Statesboro, Ga.
"We've played well this year in some big tournaments," Kelson said. "In some of the other tournaments where the competition wasn't quite as strong, we haven't played as well and that's a bit of a concern. But certainly this week, that won't be any problem because we know the quality level of the competition we are facing."
Tennessee placed seventh two weeks ago at the Administaff in Augusta, and now enters ranked 14th in the latest Golf World/Nike Division I Coaches' Poll, 18th in the Golfstat Ratings and 26th on the Golfweek/Sagarin Index.
This weekend's field is littered with ranked squads, including Georgia as the nation's No. 1 ranked team by Golfstat. Other teams ranked in the top 25 according to Golfstat are Alabama (7), Florida (10), Arkansas (11) and South Carolina (14), in addition to Tennessee.
Kelson doesn't see that as any sort of advantage or disadvantage.
"The rankings don't mean too much," he said. "It's going to be who plays well this week and that's the bottom line. When our team plays like it is capable, we've got a chance to compete against anyone."