Austin Peay Sports Information
Muscle Shoals, AL – Austin Peay State University men’s golf will compete for the Ohio Valley Conference tournament title for the first time under head coach Robbie Wilson, Friday-Sunday, at The Shoals, a Robert Trent Jones Trail Course.
The three-day, 54-hole event will be competed on The Shoals Fighting Joe course, a par 72, 7,258-yard layout.This is the second straight year the tournament has been played on the Fighting Joe and the third time overall (2009 was the previous time).
But it will be the first time for Wilson to lead the Govs into the OVC championship hunt. He is in his first season as Govs head coach, having arrived in late Fall from Trevecca. He has watched his team overcome roster-related adversity during the spring. The Govs weathered those issues to be playing their best golf this spring entering the weekend.
“The goal is always to improve and peak at the end of the season,” Wilson said. “I think the last three-to-four weeks shows we are playing better. Freshman Justin Arens is playing better. Erik (Hedberg) is playing better. Tucker (Wallace) is rounding into good form this time of year. (Chris) Baker and (Austin) Kramer have showed signs of improvement.
“We know it takes more than two or three playing good each week. The guys know that. They just need to go out there and not put too much pressure on putting up a good score. The just need to concentrate on doing the small things right and trying to be consistent.”
Wallace, a senior, and Baker, a junior, are the only Govs who played the course a year ago. Wallace is coming off a seventh-place finish at the Coca-Cola Wofford Invitational, shooting below par each round, finishing at 6-under.
Baker was 3-under par in the Wofford event and tied for APSU’s low at A-State Red Wolves Intercollegiate. The previous tournament he authored APSU’s single-round record-low 61 in the Grub Mart Intercollegiate on that Robert Trent Jones course.
“I think the course is pretty straight forward,” Wilson said. “It is not an old-school type course. You are going to see the trouble in front of you. The greens will be bigger than what we have played the last few weeks.
“It is a lot like Jacksonville State’s tournament (played at Silver Lakes Golf Course, another Robert Trent Jones Trail course). Any potential problems will be right there in front of us. But I am sure there are nuggets that Tucker and Chris can offer to us about the course.”
Arens, meanwhile, has evolved during the spring after an up-and-won fall. He played the final two rounds at Arkansas State at 1-under and the following week tied for 19th at the Wofford tournament, shooting 2-under on the final day.
Hedberg, meanwhile, emerged late in the spring. He played 1-over par over the final two days at Arkansas State. He then won a playoff qualifier with junior Tyler Phillips to capture the No. 5 spot for the league tournament.
“I don’t think Austin will be too nervous,” Wilson said. “I think if there is an issue it will be him putting too much pressure on himself. He has played in a lot of big golf tournaments. Our whole team has. Justin played at Inverness and in the GolfWeek earlier in the year; these guys have played in tournaments that the competition is much tougher than this and on tougher golf courses. It is a matter of going out there not trying to shoot a certain number, not trying to put that extra pressure on themselves.
“I feel comfortable in that they know what they need to do in order to perform well. But they are young and inexperienced at times, but they know exactly what they need to do. It is a matter of not focusing on a score or number but focusing what they can control.”
Jacksonville State is the tourney defending champion, winning the rain-shortened event last spring. With senior Tomasz Anderson back, the Gamecocks are considered the favorite. APSU has won the event eight times, the most recent in 2013. For the Govs to make it No. 9, the task is simple…but not easy.
“We need all five players playing consistent golf,” Wilson said. “We have shown we can make the birdies but we have to show we can eliminate the dumb mistakes, eliminate the little bogeys that have prevented us from building up some really good momentum in some rounds.”