Blazers look to go low at Lone Palm
Matt Anderson, Wesley Hanson, and the trio of freshman will play in their first event of the spring season Monday, taking on Lone Palm Golf Club and a field that features the Coaches Poll’s top 6 teams.
Located in Lakeland, Florida, this par 72 is just under 7,100 yards in length, a Dick Wilson design that has since been renovated by Steve Myers, who is famous for his work on Cypress Lakes.
Lone Palm was established by George Jenkins, the founder of Publix Super Markets, and it is said that, if the wind blows in the right direction, the players can smell bread from the nearby facility. To be successful on these grounds, one must keep the ball in play off the tee and capitalize with short irons, according to Coach Jared Purvis.
“I have never played it, but from what I have been told, it’s a pretty gettable course if you are hitting the ball well,” Freshman Davis Smith said.
Anderson, the UIS Island Getaway’s medalist, on the other hand, hails from Lakeland, and this particular venue happens to be his home course.
Hanson, the 2018 Gulf South Conference Freshman of the Year, was absent from the top five during the fall season, but the Macon, Georgia native will be back in the lineup for this Matlock Collegiate. Along with Anderson, he’ll look to put his past experience at this event to good use.
“Golf isn’t like basketball or football where the field is the same everywhere, so it’s nice to have some familiarity and be ahead of the game,” Hanson said. “It is also beneficial so that Matt and I can give advice to the guys who haven’t played it before.”
Lone Palm can be categorized as a traditional course with tree-lined fairways and large greens that are protected by bunkers.
Most of the holes aren’t long for those of their caliber, but the par 3s stand as an exception, with three out of the four listed as being at least 205 yards.
Hanson called the par 3s the “teeth of the course,” and perhaps the two toughest of them can be found on the back nine.
13, the shortest of these two, features water to the right and a bunker just short and right of a putting surface that runs toward the water a little bit.
15, considered the most difficult, presents multiple penalties when missing the green. Players will look to avoid the water left, but on the other side, a big, tight, runoff creates a highly difficult pitch up to an elevated dance floor.
The par 5s, however, present several birdie opportunities, starting with the 510-yard 2nd, a hole that can be played as a par 4 but won’t be in this event. While the green is narrow with bunkers on either side, the fairway is fairly generous off the tee.
The 5th hole is tighter off the tee with a bit of a left turn, but this doesn’t prevent the players from going for a pretty reachable green in two.
Nos. 11 and 17 are the two longest of the quartet, with the latter of the two possibly being the last real birdie opportunity, depending on the day’s conditions.
The finishing hole, the 451-yard par 4, can be particularly difficult when playing into the wind. Here, there are several bunkers both right and left of the fairway, requiring an accurate tee shot to avoid trouble.
The Blazers won the UIS Island Getaway in Puerto Rico by 19 shots over Illinois-Springfield in their last tournament appearance. Coming off that victory and qualifying, the team feels good about themselves heading into this one.
“Qualifying went well, and I think everyone is confident in their game,” Smith said. “We are looking to start the spring season out strong.”
Being the 5th event of the year for VSU, it will mark the 5th time that the trio of freshman will all be in the lineup together. This threesome is composed of Brock Healy, Davis Smith(“D2”), and Gage Smith(“Bruther”).
Also in the field will be No. 1 Barry, No. 2 Lynn, No. 3 Florida Tech, No. 4 St. Leo, No. 5 West Florida, and host Florida Southern who was ranked No. 6 in the latest Coaches Poll.
Barry finished the fall season with three tournament victories in four events, one of them being the Copperhead Championship this past October. In the Otter Invitational at Bayonet Blackhorse Golf Club, the Buccaneers came in second to Lynn by eight strokes.
West Florida’s Christian Bosso was the individual champion at both Copperhead and at Bayonet. He’ll be attempting to win his third in a row.
No. 10 Nova Southeastern, No.13 Limestone, and No. 18 Rollins round out the teams playing who were placed in the top 25. Cal State Monterey-Bay, Georgia College, Columbus State, Eckerd, and Montevallo will also be in the field.
“There are a bunch of solid teams playing and a bunch of teams that we need to have wins against to help our ranking to make sure we’ll make it to Regionals without a doubt,” Hanson said. “It’s so important to start the season off on the right foot.”
Written by Bryant Roche, Staff Writer. Photo by VSU Athletics.
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This story was updated at 2:49 p.m. on 2/8/19