The Blazers weren’t in contention Tuesday, but they didn’t quit, either, coming in fourth place at St. Leo Invitational at Lake Jovita, passing the host in the process.
In particular, one player who didn’t quit was Senior Matt Anderson, who tied for second in the tournament, which took place in Dade City, Florida.
He played the “toughest starting hole” in Florida at 3 over par, but that didn’t derail him, as he played the other holes at 10 under par for the three rounds.
“After making those scores on Hole 1, the goal was just to stay patient and keep fighting,” Anderson said. “Hole 1 is a very difficult hole, and it can get the best of any player. There are plenty of scoring chances on the rest of the course.”
One of those opportunities for him came at the very next one, where he made birdie all three times. He put 14 circles on his scorecard in total, with three of them occurring in a row on holes 13 through 15 during round 2.
For the Lakeland product, his putter got hot and his mind was aimed at sticking to his game plan and giving himself more birdie opportunities.
He converted on five of them on Tuesday, earning back-to-back 69s to go along with his first round 1 under-par 71.
Another Blazer who got hot was Brock Healy.
In round 1, the freshman posted a 76 that didn’t count toward his team’s total, a quadruple bogey on Hole 2 costing him more than anything else.
“After the quad, I knew I was hitting the ball well, so I told myself to light it up the rest of the course,” Healy said. “I didn’t necessarily do that in the first round, but I hung in there.”
His first round score didn’t count toward the team’s total, but round 2 was a much different story. With five birdies on the back nine, the freshman climbed up the leaderboard.
“Something just clicked,” the Norcross native said. “I reminded myself how well I was hitting it before we left and from there, I didn’t miss any shot.”
When a birdie on 17 put the pressure on to finish a good round, Healy demonstrated he could deliver when it mattered by draining another one on 18, this time an uphill 15-footer that broke about three cups right to left.
The 66 coupled with a final round 73 put him in a tie for seventh for the event.
Gage Smith came in a tie for 24th, turning in a pair of 75s on Monday and an even-par 73 on Tuesday.
At Lake Jovita, driving the ball well is a major factor, and finding the fairway was difficult at times for the LaFayette, Georgia-native.
“The front nine really ate my lunch so to say all week,” Smith said. “It demands good tee balls, and I wasn’t hitting the driver very well this week.”
The back side was his better side. Smith played the back at 2 under, while playing the front at 8 over par.
However, Smith did get on a roll early, Tuesday, making par on 1 and back-to-back birdies on holes 2 and 3.
“After 1, No. 2 and 3 are definitely birdie holes,” Smith said. “I hit two good wedges and had a tap-in on 2 and about eight feet on 3.”
His roommate, Davis Smith, posted an opening round 73, only outdone by 16 players in a field of 72. While he did make bogeys on holes 4 through 6, Smith also birdied the 562-yard 13th, which is rated the 2nd toughest, according to handicap.
Smith shot a 3-over 75 in round two that put him in a tie for 23rd through 36 holes. After a 78 in the last round, he wound up coming in a tie for 38th.
Junior Jordan Long posted two 78s, but before that, he turned in a 2-over 74 in his return to the lineup.
In that first round, Long had two birdies, two bogeys, and a double bogey on 9, the rest pars.
While Anderson was only two shots off the lead, he didn’t think about winning the golf tournament. Before the final results came in, he just waited in the clubhouse and chatted with some of the other players who had also finished their rounds.
Juan Jose Guerra of Nova Southeastern won the event with rounds of 71, 64, and 72, the middle number being the tournament low by two shots.
Throughout the event, winds served as a factor. While there was some precipitation on Tuesday, there was “not enough rain to matter,” according to Coach Jared Purvis.
Next Monday, there will not be another tournament for the Blazers, but Purvis sees this off week as an opportunity for his team to fine tune before taking part in possibly the most prestigious event of the regular season, the Southeastern Collegiate at Valdosta’s Kinderlou Forest Golf Club.
“We are doing a lot of positive things, just need to work on eliminating a few mistakes,” Purvis said.
The postseason implications may still be unclear, but wins over a top 10 team in St. Leo and Lee could only help their cause.
For VSU, only Kinderlou, Cuscowilla, and Pensacola remain on the schedule prior to the Gulf South Conference Tournament held in Mobile, Alabama.
All will be “very important,” according to Anderson.
Written by Bryant Roche, Staff Writer. Photo courtesy of VSU Athletics.
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