Better a year late than never. That's part of my reaction to the nice start this fall out of Florida State after the Seminole men set a tournament record while winning the Gary Koch Invitational this past weekend.
A 30-under 834 at Old Memorial GC in Tampa gave FSU a 16-stroke victory over Auburn. It's the second win for coach Trey Jones' squad in three starts, having claimed the title at the Golfweek Conference Challenge to start the 2009-10 season and finishing fifth at the Olympia Fields/Fighting Illini event.
After Florida State won the ACC men's golf title in 2008, much was expected out of the squad last season. While losing All-American Jonas Blixt, the Seminoles had__Matt Savage__ coming off a victory at the North & South Amateur, Drew Kittleson finishing runner-up at the U.S. Amateur and blue-chip recruit Wesley Graham arriving in Tallahassee. Surprisingly, though, things never seems to gel. The team posted just four top-five finishes, wound up 10th while defending their ACC title, and failed to advance to nationals.
There was a bright spot, however, in the development of freshman Brooks Koepka, who was the top rookie in the ACC. He had continued his strong play into the fall as Koepka's fourth-place finish at the Gary Koch included a career-best 54-hole score of 205.
Additionally, the Seminoles have gotten some inspired performances from senior Seath Lauer (above), who shot a career-best 201 at Old Memorial to finish in second place, two strokes back of Auburn's Kyle Kopsick.
"Seath is playing like a first team All-American and Brooks is not far behind," Jones said.
According to Jones, playing well at in the Gary Koch event was of particular importance. "The players knew this was a big event for us for the last two weeks," said Jones. "Old Memorial is a great golf course where the founders and members have been great to our program."
After winning the individual title at the Golfweek Conference Challenge, Kittleson struggled with a T-59 at the Gary Koch but Jones is confident his game is only improving, giving his squad the depth that's necessary to be a national contender.
Perhaps the stat that is most impressive/inspiring for Florida State so far this fall is how the team is competing in the final round. FSU's eight-under 280 at Old Memorial marked the third time in their three starts that it has had the closing score.
"That shows me a great deal about our players confidence," Jones said, "and the great thing about winning is that it breeds confidence."
Lauer photo courtesy of the Florida State Sports Information Department