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Blazers earn key region victories in first spring event

The Blazers scored better than No. 3-ranked Florida Tech, No. 4 St. Leo, and No. 18 Rollins College at the Matlock Collegiate Classic Monday and Tuesday, making a potential move up the Region ladder with a 9th place finish.

“We still have a long way to go, but this is a nice start to the spring,” Coach Jared Purvis said.

Matt Anderson, the individual medalist in VSU’s victory in Puerto Rico, didn’t leave the country on this occasion.  This time, the Lakeland native returned home, and on top of that, gave VSU their lowest aggregate score over three rounds.

After posting a 76 and a 74 on day one, Anderson fired a one-under-par 71 Tuesday.  Starting his day on Hole 13, the veteran made two birdies on the back side, one coming on the drivable par 4 14th, the other on 18, one of the tougher holes at Lone Palm Golf Club.

Anderson’s highlight in Round three, however, came on the 11th, his 17th, where he sunk a  “huge momentum putt” to remain in red numbers for the day.

Faced with about a 70 footer from the fringe, Anderson left himself with a 10 foot downhill left-to-righter that he made fall to the bottom of the cup.

“I had been playing solid all day but hadn’t made any putts outside of six feet,” Anderson said.  It meant a lot to me to shoot under par today, and that was the putt I needed to be able to do that.”

Tuesday may have been his, but Monday belonged to Brock Healy for the Blazers.

With three birdies in his first two rounds, the true freshman from Norcross turned in two 73s.  On one particular stretch, Healy birdied 2 out of three holes, them coming on 12 and 14.

On Tuesday, Healy went from tied for 17th to tied for 38th.  This coming in a round in which he made back-to-back bogeys on multiple occasions.  He also managed to make a six on the par-4 16th.

One of four players tied with him after three rounds at 10 over par was his teammate Wesley Hanson.  Hanson began the tournament on the back nine, but after going 4 over on that side, a 2 under front was concluded with birdies on 8 and 9, resulting in a respectable 74 for the opening round.

For Hanson, with Lone Palm’s tough pin locations, the key in that first round of four birdies was staying patient.

“My putter got hot,” Hanson said.  “I didn’t hit the ball much better, just put myself in position to where I had putts at birdie, and I rolled them in.”

In Round two, Hanson continued to play well, starting off with three straight pars and a birdie on 14.  He parred 10 through 12 again in the final round, before falling to 6 over par at the days end.

Davis “D2” Smith came in a tie for 44th in this event.  Playing holes 11 through 13 at 7 over for the week, he played the other 45 holes at only 5 over.

All things considered, D2 turned in a triplet of 76s.

“It’s very frustrating because I hit the ball really well but putted very poorly,” Smith said.

Meanwhile, Gage Smith went 76-78-75, a 13 over finish that placed him a tie for 44th.

For Bruther, his best was saved for the final nine, where he posted eight pars and a birdie on the 552-yard par 5 17th.  It was only a bogey-double stretch on 8 and 9 that cost him from being even for the day.

The course setup proved be more difficult than in recent memory, with a scoring average of just under 75 compared to 2018’s average of 73.36.  In last year’s Matlock, there were 67 rounds under par, while only 39 occurred this time around.

Anderson “really enjoyed” the setup at this year’s event and said that the pin locations were the hardest he had seen for this tournament.

“Every pin was less than four paces from an edge of the green, which made it really difficult to make birdies,” Anderson said.  “This made scoring very difficult for everyone and made the teams scores much higher than they have been in past years.”

According to Purvis, anyone who broke par for a round or the tournament “played a great round of golf.”

In the end, the Blazer coach would have liked for his team to place better, but he came away “extremely pleased with everyone’s effort and contribution.”

For the second time in a row, No. 2 Lynn got the better of No.1-ranked Barry, winning by two strokes as opposed to eight at the Otter Invitational in October.  Their lowest score came from Jorge Villar, who finished at 6 under par.

Jorge Garcia won the event as an individual by five shots, with a tournament low 64 of them in the final round.  He had been tied for 4th with rounds of 68 and 72 on Monday.

This was Garcia’s second win of the year, also winning by five shots in Barry’s first fall season event, the Jennison Cup at St. Augustine’s World Golf Village.

Written by Bryant Roche, Staff Writer. Photo courtesy by VSU Athletics.

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