PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – After a two-month break from competitive action, the FGCU men’s golf team begins its spring season against some of the nation’s best teams at one of the country’s most iconic courses when it tees off in the Sea Best Seafood Invitational at THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass Monday (Feb. 3) and Tuesday (Feb. 4).
The invite – hosted by Jacksonville University – gets underway with a shotgun start at 8:30 a.m. Monday as the 16-team field will play 36 holes. Action concludes Tuesday with 18 holes beginning with another shotgun start, this time at 8 a.m. Live scoring for the tournament is available by clicking the link at the top of this release, and results and recaps will be posted following each day on FGCUAthletics.com. Fans can also receive updates through the program’s official Twitter account by following @FGCU_MGolf.
FGCU begins the spring season with a national ranking of No. 89, one of nine teams competing this week which is in the top 100 of the Golfweek rankings. Four additional squads are in the top 50, led by No. 5 Texas A&M.
The Eagles have participated in the Sea Best Invitational each of the past three years, finishing 10th in 2011, 8th in 2012 and tied for 13th with fellow Atlantic Sun Conference member USC Upstate last year. The then-freshman duo of Edward Figueroa (Naples, Fla./St. John Neumann HS) and Jake Sherwin (Fort Myers, Fla./Evengelical Christian HS) led the way for the Green and Blue as Figueroa shot rounds of 77-79-72 (228) to finish in a tie for 25th place and Sherwin recorded rounds of 77-77-73 (227) to tie for 22nd overall.
Head coach Brent Jensen will head into the invitational this year with junior Jack Hernandez (Fort Myers, Fla./Bishop Verot HS) as FGCU’s No. 1 player in the lineup. Junior Blake Biggs (Peoria, Ill./Eastern Florida State College/Peoria Notre Dame HS) will be playing out of the second spot in the lineup, while lone senior Matt Cote (Palm Harbor, Fla./Palm Harbor University HS) will be third. Junior Mike Andre (Fort Myers, Fla./Fort Myers HS) is slotted fourth, while Sherwin will be in the fifth position. Freshman Keaton Jones (Kitchener, Ontario/St. Mary’s HS) will represent FGCU as the Eagles’ lone individual competing.
The legendary course will play to a length of 6,977 yards and a par-72 layout for the teams. The Pete and Alice Dye design hosts THE PLAYERS Championship each May – often referred to as the “fifth major” – and is best known for its signature par-3 17th island green.
FGCU played in five fall tournaments, posting top-10 finishes in four of them and claiming the Cobra-PUMA Invitational title for the third straight year. Cote led the Eagles with a scoring average of 74.17 in 12 rounds, followed closely by Figueroa with a 74.20 average over 15 rounds. Five of FGCU’s six rounds in the 60s came from Figueroa (3) and Cote (2), with the other being a 68 from Hernandez.
FGCU is tied for the second most eagles in the nation with 13. The Eagles are tied with San Diego, Georgia Tech and Temple with 13 eagles, only one behind the national leader Arizona State. Individually, Figueroa is tied for third in the country with five eagles, just one behind the pace of six set by golfers from Arizona State and Mississippi State. Sherwin has rolled in four eagles, placing him in a tie for 12th nationally, while Jordan Miller (Bradenton, Fla./Bradenton Christian School) has three eagles (T-28th) in only nine rounds played.
FINDING THE SHORT STUFF
The Green and Blue is near the top of the national stats for made eagles due largely to their ability to get the ball in the short grass off the tee. As a team, FGCU ranks fourth in the country in percentage of fairways hit at an incredible 75.5 – a microscopic .3 of a percent behind national leader Campbell University (75.8). Individually, Biggs leads the way in fairways hit for the Eagles at an astounding 85.7-percent clip, good for third in the country.
Not to be out-done with the national rankings for several of his teammate, Cote ranks second in the country in birdie conversion at 37.1 percent. Birdie conversion is calculated based on the percentage of holes where birdie (or better) was achieved on greens not reached in regulation. Cote is just .2 percent behind national leader Baxter Reeves (37.3) from Cincinnati. By comparison, Phil Mickleson led the PGA Tour in birdie conversion percentage last year at 34.9, and Tiger Woods was second at 33.3.
GREENS IN REGULATION
While Cote is getting the job done while not consistently reaching greens in regulation, Figueroa is doing the opposite as he ranks second in the country in greens in regulation at 78.7 percent. The sophomore is 3.2 percent behind leader, and fellow sophomore, Francis Berthiaume (81.9) of Alabama State. Additionally, Figueroa ranks third in the nation in par-3 green-in-regulation at 83.3 percent.
After action at the Sea Best Seafood Invitational, FGCU will head to the VCU-hosted Harmony Preserve Intercollegiate at Harmony Golf Preserve outside Orlando Mar. 3-5.
COMPLETE FIELD (GOLFWEEK RANKING)
#5 Texas A&M
#79 North Florida
#81 East Carolina
#107 Jacksonville State
#108 USC Upstate
#126 Old Dominion
#175 Cal Poly
#180 Florida Atlantic