College golf notebook: Florida State opens spring with big win

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During the college golf season, will check in weekly to update what’s happening in the world of college golf.

Florida State head coach Trey Jones only needed one word to sum up his team’s return to competition: “Finally.”

That sentiment was likely shared by the other nine ACC programs who teed off Sunday in the first round of the Camp Creek Seminole Invitational, which marked the first competitive round for these schools in over 300 days after the COVID-19 pandemic not only wiped out the end of last season but also the entire fall portion of this campaign.

“You should’ve seen the excitement of these 60 players when they got here,” said Jones, who hosted the 54-hole spring opener at Camp Creek Golf Club in Watersound, Florida. “You just see them bouncing up to the driving range where their bags are almost bouncing off their backs.”

Two days later, Jones’ Seminoles were still bouncing. Florida State shot 22 under over three days to share the team victory with Wake Forest before taking down the Demon Deacons in a two-hole playoff for the right to take home the trophies.

“That’s was as good of golf as I’ve ever seen since I’ve coached,” said Jones, now in his 18th season, who followed the threesome of John Pak, Brett Roberts and Connor Futrell during Tuesday’s final round. That trio combined to shoot 10 under and fuel a closing 278, the round of the day, for the Seminoles.

For the tournament, all five Florida State starters finished inside the top 10, including Futrell, a transfer from Troy who closed in 5-under 67 to tie for third, and the dynamic duo of Pak and Vincent Norrman, another transfer, who each tied for seventh.

Jones called it one of the best regular-season wins in his time at Florida State. This may just be one of his best teams. Yes, the likes of Jonas Blixt, Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger have led the Seminoles to eight NCAA Championship appearances (and a best finish of third in 2008), but Jones is excited about his latest bunch and the prospects of his team both qualifying for the NCAA Championship for the first time since 2017 and being a legitimate threat when they get there.

Pak, the No. 1 player in the PGA Tour U rankings, is a Haskins Award contender and likely two-time Walker Cupper come this May. Norrman was the top-ranked player in Division II last year at Georgia Southwestern and won this spring’s first qualifier by two shots over Pak. Futrell, whose uncle, Mike Futrell, played baseball at Florida State, was born in Tallahassee, Florida, and returns home after cracking the top 100 in Golfstat a season ago.

“He’s as tough a guy as I’ve seen,” Jones said of Futrell. “Putts to make every putt. Not afraid of anything or anybody. He’s a guy you want on your team. Went 54 holes with him and he could not have impressed me any more than he did.”

Roberts, who was T-9, arrives as a much-heralded freshman and Junior Presidents Cupper. Fifth-year senior Grayson Porter had played more than four events just once in four previous seasons with the Seminoles, including just two last year, but his T-9 finish is a positive sign. And then you add to the mix Cole Anderson, who tied for 15th as an individual, and senior Jamie Li, who led Florida State in three events last season, and there is a wealth of talent at Jones’ disposal.

“This is a different team,” Jones said. “There’s a toughness to this team.”

Jones hosts a radio show called “Beyond the Tips” on Wednesday night’s on SiriusXM, and he frequently asks current Tour pros what they miss most about college. The response is always the same: Winning as a team.

“When you win with your buddies, it’s just something that you never forget, and I told the team that today,” Jones said. “This is the greatest thing about college golf. Don’t think about our next tournament, don’t think about anything you could’ve done better. Just enjoy this. Winning is hard in golf and you’ve earned it.”

They won’t have long to enjoy it, though. Florida State’s next event is in just five days, at the Timuquana Collegiate in Jacksonville, Florida.

‘Bridging’ the gap

Talk about picking up where one left off.

Clemson junior Jacob Bridgeman took home medalist honors Tuesday at Camp Creek, shooting 15 under and winning by five shots. It was his second straight college win, as he also won the Palmetto Intercollegiate last March before the season was canceled.

Bridgeman’s performance led Clemson to a third-place finish, just three shots back of Florida State and Wake Forest, while also nearly setting a couple of program records. Bridgeman’s 15-under total tied for second best in school history, behind only Bryson Nimmer’s 17 under at Clemson’s home event during the 2018-19 season. His five-shot victory also tied for the second-largest margin of victory by a Clemson player, just a shot shy of Doc Redman’s six-shot triumph at The Jackrabbit during the 2016-17 season.

And we’re off!

Are you ready for a full slate of men’s college golf?

While the women don’t get fully underway until later this month at the UCF Challenge, there are a slew of men’s events that begin Monday.

The highlight is the Southwestern Invitational, which will be broadcast live on Golf Channel on Monday-Wednesday. Host Pepperdine is the defending champion, though they will get a challenge from Arizona State, which is fresh off a one-point victory over Arizona in the Copper Cup, a dual match that was held earlier this week in Arizona. SMU (led by All-Americans Mac Meissner and Noah Goodwin), USC (with new coach J.T. Higgins) and Georgia Tech (sans Andy Ogletree, Ty Strafaci and Luke Schniederjans, who have all moved on) are among the other teams in the field at North Ranch Country Club in Westlake Village, California.

Arizona will host its annual Arizona Intercollegiate on Monday-Tuesday at Sewailo Golf Club in Tucson, Arizona. The Wildcats, led by the senior duo of Trevor Werbylo and David Laskin, will be joined in the field by Washington, Oregon State and Wake Forest, among others.

Timuquana Country Club, a Donald Ross gem, will host its first ever college event on Monday-Tuesday. The field for that tournament includes Oklahoma State (last fall’s champ at Maridoe), Florida (and its new toy, USC transfer Yuxin Lin) and Florida State.