June 18, 2013
By Matt Winkeljohn
Seth Reeves has been down this fairway so many times he probably feels like he knows it like his steering wheel, yet the journey is never the same.
So when the rising Georgia Tech senior golfer won the Southeastern Amateur Saturday for the second time in three years, he had all good feelings even if he’s had to navigate some uncomfortable moments in the past to reach his present.
This may bode well for both Reeves and the Yellow Jackets. He’s solidifying his game.
Reeves tied for 13th nationally in stroke action for Tech in the NCAA championships a few weeks ago, and was pretty good for the first couple rounds at the Country Club of Columbus.
Then, the he started stroking – with a brief interruption. He fired a bogey-free 66 in the third round last Friday before piffling around a bit over the front nine on Saturday with three birdies and bogeys to match.
A golfer named Jimmy Beck of Columbus was ahead of Reeves, and the Duluth native had made the mistake of approaching his final round as if he were playing a different kind of golf.
“The last round, I got off to a hot start, and then I made some really dumb bogeys, and really it was like I was playing match play against Jimmy,” Reeves said.
At the turn, he put his brain through a car wash.
“I kind of went back to nationals [for Tech] and … everything seemed to go a little slower,” he said. “Before I knew it, I was birdieing, birdieing . . . and I was on fire on the back.”
That Reeves was, and in the process of shooting 31 down the stretch with birdies on Nos. 11, 13, 15 and 17, he did not surprise everyone.
His winning score of 11-under par 273 included an eagle in the first round, 18 birdies, seven bogeys and a double. Beck finished three back.
The young man has had high moments – like winning the Southeastern two years ago, and tying for second place last fall while playing for Tech in the PING/Golfweek Preview Classic at the Capital City Club’s Crabapple course.
Plus, Reeves’ tie for 13th in NCAA stroke play earned him All-America honors. He was one of just five golfers in a field of 156 to shoot under par in all three rounds at Crabapple.
That was a big deal made bigger against the reality that at times this past season he didn’t qualify for Tech’s travel squad. Some of that had to do with illness, some with inconsistency.
In fact, it was a minor upset that he was in the NCAAs.
Coach Bruce Heppler is known to hold 108-hole qualifiers before every regular-season event, but generally shuts those down as the postseason approaches. More often than not, the lineup that competes in the ACC championships will go forward to the NCAA regionals and then the nationals – when Tech qualifies.
When freshman Michael Hines struggled in the ACCs, Reeves was given a shot to play him off and won out.
Every Tech golfer of significance is to return to a team that lost in the semifinals of NCAA match play to eventual champion Alabama. That came after the Jackets finished second in stroke play.
The Jackets, whose final ranking was No. 4, have not only experienced players returning, the players whose experience has helped them sort out their own environments.
Reeves was perhaps the greatest wildcard in Tech’s strong run in the NCAAs. Next season, hopefully, he will be a bedrock reason to consider the Jackets among the very favorites to finally win it all.
He won the Southeastern by playing his – long – game. Work on his short game will continue. Reeves was 10-under par on the par 5s at Columbus, five under on par 4s, and four over on par 3s.
“I’ve definitely been on a journey of a lot of ups and downs in my college career, maybe more downs than ups, but more positives are coming in,” Reeves said. “A lot of those down moments … have built my career. I think we learn the most through failure. I’ve definitely had a lot of failing moments … at Tech. I’ve learned so much.
“I feel like there is a foundation going into next year. Since regionals, I’ve learned so much about how I play and how to handle that mental edge part of it.”
Reeves, like all of his Tech teammates, will keep playing amateur events this summer around the U.S. He and multiple teammates will play in the Dogwood in a couple weeks, at Druid Hills about 2.5 miles east of Tech along Ponce de Leon Avenue. Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.