By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
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COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - Off the heels of quietly successful fall, the Tennessee Tech men's golf has announced what's in store for the spring, releasing its spring schedule. The Golden Eagles will look to build off three top five finishes from the fall competition.
"I'm definitely looking forward to the spring with the guys," said head coach Polk Brown. "I think they became more and more consistent as the fall went on. We had some strong finishes from individual players and it will be interesting to see how they take that success forward to the spring."
First on the docket for the men's squad is a trip to Goodyear, Ariz. where the Golden Eagles will compete in the Snowman Getaway, hosted by Loyola-Maryland, from Feb. 24-25. The two day event will take place at 36-hole Palm Valley Golf Club, one of the nicest and most revered courses in the state of Arizona.
The Arthur Hills-designed Palms Course, a par-72 layout that covers 7,015 yards from the back tees, features one of the finest closing holes in the region -- the par 5 18th with a lake on the left side of the fairway that wraps around a three-tiered green. The par-62 Lakes Course, designed by Hale Irwin, offers a shorter, quicker round of golf although no less of a challenge. The Lakes Course winds through the desert with many of its greens guarded by water.
"It's an exciting time for our program," explained Brown, "getting to go out to Arizona. We haven't flown anywhere since I've been here and I don't think we have done it much in our program's history. I'm not really sure what to expect being that far west, but I do expect my guys to be ready to compete and hopefully grab a win to kick-off the season."
Two weeks later, the Tech team will play a little closer to home, participating in the Grover Page Classic at the Jackson Country Club in Jackson, Tenn. Hosted by Ohio Valley Conference foe UT Martin, the event will span Mar. 10-11 on the 18-hole course.
The Jackson Country Club, chartered in 1914, originated with a 9-hole golf course. The present 18-hole championship course has a rich tradition dating from it's opening on August 1, 1929. Throughout it's history, this course has stood the test of time. Measuring 6,776 yards from the Championship tees the course plays to a par 72.
"Grover Page is always a good tournament," Brown continued. "There's always a good field and it's at a great golf course. I think our kids have a great chance to go out there and make a run at that tournament."
On Mar. 10 and 11, the Golden Eagles will compete its own event, hosting the second annual Bobby Nichols Intercollegiate in Sevierville, Tenn.
Located at Sevierville Golf Club, the event was named in the memory of legendary Tennessee Tech coach Bobby Nichols and opened with the inaugural tournament last season.
Nichols took over the Tennessee Tech men's golf program in 1979 and was responsible for establishing the Golden Eagle women's team in 1986. A Hall of Famer for both Tennessee Tech and the Ohio Valley Conference, he lost his battle with cancer in 2008 at the age of 66.
Current head coach Polk Brown played for Nichols from 2001-2006 and was named Tech's head coach in 2011.
"It means a lot to have it named after coach Nichols," Brown said. "He did so many great things for golf here at Tennessee Tech and for the state as well. When I became the coach here, one of the things I wanted to do was have a tournament in his name. It's an honor to be able to do this for the University and for him for a second time.
The Sevierville Golf Club features two 18-hole championship courses: The Highlands, a par 70 that winds through lush rolling hills and fresh water mountain ponds and The River, a par 72 which plays along and across the Little Pigeon River.
"We're looking at a full field this year. There are a lot of good teams coming to compete and we feel that we can go out and build on last year's success."
It will be three long weeks before the Golden Eagles return to action, taking a break until Apr. 7-8 when they head west for the ASU Red Wolf Intercollegiate hosted by Arkansas State. This will mark the second straight year Tech will head to Ridge Point Country Club after placing 10th in last year's event.
"The guys finished strong in that event last year," Brown quipped, "and we're looking for them to build off their last couple of days out there. There's always a good group of teams at that event."
Tech will partake in one more tournament before it dukes it out for the OVC Championship, making an Apr. 12-13 date with the UK Bluegrass Invitational hosted by Kentucky. The UK Big Blue Course will serve as the locale of the event.
Re-designed by Arthur Hills Golf, Big Blue is 18 holes of championship golf in the heart of the Bluegrass. Big Blue can be played from 1 of 5 tees that play between 4874 and 7013 yards. This course has bent grass from tee to green and features numerous sand traps and water hazards over rolling terrain. Green complexes can be challenging due to the beautifully undulating features of the greens. There is a premium placed on driving the ball and positioning of shots in to the greens.
"It's kind of a unique dynamic for that event as our guys will get to play together in one group on the first day," Brown explained. "That will be different and fun for us and to play in an event hosted by an SEC school is always cool."
Wrapping up the schedule (for now) is, as always, the Ohio Valley Conference Championship Tournament. Covering Apr. 24-26, the event will take place at RTJ Shoals Fighting Joe Course in Muscle Shoals, Ala.
The Fighting Joe course at The Shoals was the first Trail course to break 8,000 yards. Travel + Leisure Golf named Fighting Joe one of the top new courses in 2004.
The Golden Eagles placed in an impressive third place last season and will look to improve that mark in the next go-around, looking to capture an OVC title.
"We will be looking to build some momentum when he head into conference," said Brown. "We're headed to a new venue this year and I think we have a great chance on making some noise. We have some improvements to make, but I think we have the tools in place to make a good run and hopefully bring the trophy home."