July 1, 2011
By Matt Winkeljohn
Went to an amateur golf tournament Friday for the first time, I think, since 1988 or ’89 when I covered a junior golf event at Horseshoe Bend for the AJC. My assignment was to bird dog and write about a tall, young, left-handed “phenom.”
The kid, Phil Mickelson, was no secret and he snuck up on nobody. He acted like he belonged.
So I’m at the Dogwood Invitational yesterday watching another tall lefthander, and I’m thinking, “This guy Seth Reeves, where in Hades (whose ambient temperature was approximated Friday at the Druid Hills Golf Club) did he come from?”
The kid’s been on Georgia Tech’s roster for two-plus years now, and hasn’t made the travel team yet.
Either he’s a screenplay writer, or there’s a real story developing here.
Reeves barely missed a 15-footer on 18 that would’ve given him a 65, and tapped in for 66.
Thursday, he fired a tournament-best 64. He’s two shots back (at 14-under par 202) of first team All-American Luke Guthrie (200) of Illinois heading into today’s final (free) round. Just a few weeks ago Reeves won a tournament in Columbus, Ga. In the spring, playing as an independent, he tied for medalist honors in the Grub Mart Collegiate by shooting 76-71-66.
The Dogwood is not for bums.
Scattered around the clubhouse Friday were bags, “Alabama, South Carolina, Auburn, Georgia Tech, Duke, Oklahoma State, San Diego State, Georgia, Augusta State, Lowndes Vikings” and many more.
This tournament has a fair number of Mid-Amateur players, too, and three of Reeves’ former teammates who made the Tech travel squad all year — ACC champion Paul Haley, fellow graduated senior Kyle Scott and rising sophomore Richy Werenski – are playing the DHGC grounds this week.
Reeves is smoking all of them.
Behind his 202, Haley (206) is tied for seventh, Scott (212) is tied for 30th and Werenski (214) landed barely on the right side of Friday’s cut line, tied for 38th.
For those who worry that the three-time defending ACC champion Yellow Jackets are going to fall under duress next season with the graduations of Haley, Scott and J.T. Griffin, it might be of interest to know that two Tech players who “gray-shirted” in the spring after entering Tech early out of high school are ahead of Scott and Werenski.
Incoming freshmen Ollie Schniederjens (209) is tied for 17th, and Anders Albertson (210) is tied for 20th.
So what gives with Reeves?
My trip to the Dogwood was far less nerve-wracking than the Horseshoe Bend event because I’m no longer a newcomer at much of anything so there were no nerves. Plus, the DHCC is less than a mile from my house so I didn’t get lost.
Reeves, who will be a sophomore this fall at Tech, appears to have found his way after being lost. Nerves don’t appear an issue for him, and he’s acting like he belongs.
That took some figuring out — for him, not me.
The 6-foot-3 Atlanta native/Duluth resident was a big recruit a few years ago, but played dreadfully in the fall of 2009 and ended up red-shirting in 2009-10. He did not make the 2010-’11 travel squad, and played in three tournaments as an “individual.”
He’s learned a great lesson: do what you do, and not what others do.
“My first two years . . . I’d look at the other guys and see what they were doing, and try to do that and start tweaking my swing, and it took me downhill,” Reeves said. “I’m not trying to compare myself to other players like I was.”
The Dogwood would be a preview of next year’s Tech squad but rising senior All-American James White scratched at the last minute with a wonky wrist after finishing runner-up in the Northeast Amateur to defending U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein, and Bo Andrews – who won last weekend in Birmingham – played this week at the North and South Amateur at Pinehurst (N.C.) near his Raleigh home in advance of his Monday birthday.
It’s difficult not to be encouraged by Tech’s prospects.
“Every tournament I’ve been in so far where a bunch of us [Tech players] have been in it, there’s always been a few of us up by the lead,” said Schniederjens, who has shot 69-69-71. “You can get beat by two or three of them and still finish top 15. I can already tell you how valuable [entering Tech early and gray-shirting] was just because I can’t imagine trying to play golf for the team immediately.”
Albertson seconded that emotion.
Maybe it took Reeves longer to get it, but he seems to have it now.
“I wanted to play so bad the first two years because it means a lot to represent your school, but we have qualifying tournaments so you’ve got to beat some really good players [at Tech] just to get into tournaments,” he said. “I definitely am in a good place mentally.
“When I won [the Grub Mart] in the spring, from there I just started finding more convictions with how I play, and confidence in myself. I finally figured it out.”
If you don’t mind heat, lots of it, head over to DHGC today. The tournament starts around 8, and will run to early afternoon. It’s located at the corner of Ponce de Leon and Clifton, literally across the street from the Fernbank Museum. No charge. They sell beer. Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.