Sept. 8, 2011
BY JOHN PAINTER
Tennessee head coach Jim Kelson figures if Augusta National makes for a perfect start to professional golf's major calendar, it only makes sense his Vols open their season each year with the collegiate version of the same caliber.
The Carpet Capital Collegiate opens Friday for the first of three rounds at The Farm in Rocky Face, Ga., 30 miles south of Chattanooga.
"It's always one of the highlights of our season," Kelson said. "Basically, that's kind of The Masters of collegiate golf. It's got a great field, it's a great golf course, the greens are always super-slick and they just do a tremendous job.
"It's always a thrill for us to go down there and play, and we're really looking forward to getting our season cranked up."
Kelson's opening-weekend lineup features five familiar faces - seniors Garrick Porteous and Darren Renwick, junior Jay Vandeventer, and sophomores Danny Keddie and Marshall Talkington. The only newcomer to UT's eight-player roster this year is Rick Lamb, a junior transfer from Santa Clara.
"We're really excited about this year's team," Kelson said. "We've got a good nucleus of players coming back. We've got some guys who have stepped up and really had some good summers and have shown they can compete at an extraordinary high level.
"We're looking forward to mixing in a couple of the other guys and seeing what they can do. Hopefully, this will be a great weekend for us and we can start strong."
Porteous likes the challenge of The Farm, which plays to Par 72 at 7,012 yards.
"The greens will be running fast," Porteous said. "It's quite a demanding course. It's not a long course, but they always tuck the pins away. Having good distance control is the key this week.
"It's a really good field, this tournament, and it's probably our biggest one of the fall. It's a good way to start off the season."
Vols Receiving Votes
Tennessee opens its four-tournament fall slate receiving votes and positioned just outside the top 25 of the Golf World/Nike Golf Division I College Preseason Coaches' Poll. Tennessee finished 24th last season at the NCAA Championships for their third straight top-25 national showing.
Joining the Vols at this year's Carpet Capital are six ranked teams - No. 3 Alabama, No. 4 Georgia Tech, No. 9 Auburn, No. 15 Georgia, No. 16 Clemson and No. 17 LSU - and three others receiving votes - Kennesaw State, South Carolina and Wake Forest. Chattanooga and Middle Tennessee round out the 12-team lineup.
Only South Carolina did not make the 2011 NCAA tournament field.
Kelson, who is beginning his 14th season as Vols head coach, says he teams always seem to appreciate the challenging competition.
"We've had some success there and we've had some times when we haven't played our best," he said. "It's a very difficult and challenging course - and field. We just need to bring our best game to be able to compete in this tournament."
The Vols begin play Friday at 9 a.m. on the No. 1 tee alongside LSU and Auburn. Weather conditions look ideal, with mostly sunny skies each day and highs near 80 degrees. Live scoring is available on UTSports.com via Golfstat.com.