Georgia State primed to defend Wexford Intercollegiate title

By Lance Hanlin

Eighteen men’s college golf teams are coming to Hilton Head Island Feb. 18-19 for the 2013 Wexford Intercollegiate.

Some teams are coming for the competition. Others are using the tournament as an excuse to visit Hilton Head. Defending champion Georgia State is coming for the candy.

“The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” Georgia State coach Joe Inman said. “Our guys love that tournament. Whenever they go behind the first tee, there is always candy and food and somebody smiling at them. You don’t get that at every tournament.”

Francis Marion golf coach Mark Gaynor serves as tournament director. He cooked up the idea several years ago while visiting his parents, who live in Wexford Plantation.

Heading into its eighth year, the two-day event has become a February tradition.

“My mom and I talk about it,” Gaynor said. “We still remember when we would take walks and talk about it. It’s just funny how everything came together. It’s really, really working out well down there.”

The field has expanded to 18 teams this year.

Teams competing are Campbell, Davidson, Dayton, DePaul, Elon, Francis Marion, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Ohio, Presbyterian, Radford, Richmond, Samford, Connecticut, USC Aiken, South Florida, Western Carolina and William and Mary.

Teams will play 36 holes on the first day of the tournament and 18 holes on the final day. Both days open with 8:30 a.m. shotgun starts.

The general public is welcome to attend.

“We owe a big thanks to Wexford Plantation for this,” Gaynor said. “(Pro) Scott Hunter played college golf at George Mason. It’s a fantastic thing when your head pro has played college golf and understands what it means. Course superintendent Brian Murry, what he did to get the course ready after the redesign was phenomenal.”

The golfers thank the Wexford residents with a member-am on the day before the tournament. Two members are paired with two collegians for a practice round.

“It’s a really neat thing,” Gaynor said. “The kids enjoy it because they can get away from their coaches. The members enjoy it because, physically, these kids hit the golf ball like you see on TV. They just can’t putt and chip as well yet. The membership there really enjoys high-level people playing their golf course because it’s challenging. They feel a little bit better about their own scores when one of these kids that is really good shoots a 77 or a 78 on it.”

Georgia State won last year’s tournament by six strokes. Damon Stephenson led the Panthers with a score of even-par 72-73-71 – 216. The rest of the field finished over par.

“I showed the course the respect it deserved and tried to stay patient throughout the tournament,” Stephenson said. “In the end, it paid off. I am looking forward to returning and getting an opportunity to not only defend my title individually but as a team as well.”

Teammate Tyler Gruca came in second place with a 219.

Inman said he is bringing an even better Georgia State team to this year’s tournament.

“We’re ranked a little higher and we are a little stronger,” Inman said. “We have a freshman that has just exploded.”

That freshman, Jonathan Grey, ended the fall season on a tear, posting two wins and never finishing outside the top 20. He was named the Sun Belt Conference’s golfer of the month in October.

Another favorite is Georgia Southern, who will make the short drive from Statesboro.

“Each year the field is getting stronger and stronger,” Gaynor said. “I’m sure Georgia Southern will have some local support come in. It’s a home event for us even though it is not being played in Florence. We get a lot of families that come watch their kids play just because it’s Hilton Head. It’s a simple sell. The parents see Hilton Head on the schedule and they make a long weekend out of it.”

What: 2013 Wexford Intercollegiate
When: Feb. 18-19
Where: Wexford Plantation, Hilton Head Island
Teams: Campbell, Davidson, Dayton, DePaul, Elon, Francis Marion, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Ohio, Presbyterian, Radford, Richmond, Samford, Connecticut, USC Aiken, South Florida, Western Carolina, William and Mary
Admission: Free. Public welcome.

Wexford Intercollegiate Champions
2006: USC Aiken
2007: Chattanooga
2008: Elon
2009: USC Aiken
2010: Wake Forest
2011: Indiana
2012: Georgia State


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