ETSU men's golf rises in rankings; Davies featured in article
ETSU men's golf rises in rankings; Davies featured in article
Tuesday, October 18, 2005

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Oct. 18, 2005) - The ETSU men's golf team continues to maintain high marks in the Golfweek/Sagarin weekly rankings, moving up to No. 21 as a team in this week's poll following this past weekend's Bank of Tennessee Intercollegiate at The Ridges. More impressively, junior Rhys Davies (Bridgend, Wales) moved to No. 4 nationally in the individual rankings powered by his win in last weekend's event.


As an indication of Davies' place on the national golf scene, the following story appeared on this week. Golfweek senior writer Ron Balicki was in Johnson City for the Bank of Tennessee Intercollegiate at The Ridges and filed the following story.


By Ron Balicki


JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. Rhys Davies, the East Tennessee State junior from Wales, finished first five times last season en route to earning first-team All-America honors. Earlier this fall he tied for first at the Shoal Creek Intercollegiate.


His father, Graham, and his mother, Chris, have seen their son play in four college events over the past two-plus seasons. They had not, however, seen their son win on the collegiate stage.


That changed Oct. 16. Graham and Chris made the trip across the Atlantic Ocean to watch Davies in the ETSU-hosted Bank of Tennessee at the Ridges Intercollegiate. This time, their eldest son did not disappoint.


With a final-round 4-under-par 68, Davies claimed his seventh college title within the past calendar year, finishing at 11-under 205. He became the first ETSU player to win this tournament in its eight-year history.


"We feel privileged to be present at such a magnificent occasion," said Chris. "It was just wonderful and we're so proud of him. It was so nice to see all these people come out and watch him and support him."


Added Davies, "Winning is always nice, but this time it was extremely special because it came before all our fans here and because my mom and dad were here to see it. For them to come over here and see me play well, to see it in real time, is very nice. It was just so special to have them here and for them to be able to see me win." 


While Davies was taking care of business on the individual side, South Carolina was doing the same in the team competition. The Gamecocks closed with a 1-over 289 for a 5-under 859 total and claimed their first tournament title since winning three times during the 2003-04 season.   


South Carolina, which at one point in the final round led by as much as 13 shots, was the only team to finish under par at the 7,147-yard, par-72, Ridges Golf and Country Club course and ended eight strokes in front of Auburn, which closed with a 6-under 282 for a 3-over 867. The Tigers made a gallant comeback the final two rounds after opening with a 300 and standing in 11th place.


TCU, the first-round leader and two-time winner of this event, placed third at 869, while ETSU followed at 871. North Carolina and Alabama shared the fifth spot at 876, one stroke better than Kent State.


"Since we had only played once before this week (a tie for eighth at the Topy Cup in Japan the first part of September), I really didn't know what to expect," said veteran South Carolina coach Puggy Blackmon. "I had no idea if we would finish first or 15th. To come out and win is very big for us since we are such a young team. We had three freshmen, a sophomore and a senior here this week, so I think they proved to themselves they can win against some very good competition.


"Coming into this fall season I told my wife I was more excited about this season than I have been in a long time," Blackmon said. "It's a young group, but a very hard working and enthusiastic group. And after this (winning) I'm really excited about the rest of the year."


Leading the way for the Gamecocks was freshman Florian Fritsch, a 20-year-old from Germany, who finished second behind Davies at 8-under 208. Virginia Tech's Carl Wakely followed at 5-under 211 while TCU's Drew Lanning and South Carolina's lone senior, Eirik Tage Johansen, were at 213. The only other two players in the field to finish under par were Robert Riesen of North Carolina and Johathan Mount of Tennessee, both at 1-under 215.


Davies' final round consisted of seven birdies and three bogeys. Oddly enough, those three bogeys came on par-3 holes, which are normally his strength as shown by last season, when he led the nation in par-3 scoring.


He birdied the first hole, bogeyed the third and then birdied Nos. 4, 5 and 6. He bogeyed No. 7 to turn in 2 under on the day and 9 under for the tournament. His lead was just one shot over Fritsch when he bogeyed No. 16, but the 2005 Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup team member closed the deal with birdies at 17, where he hit his approach to within a foot, and 18, where he sank a 6-footer.


"I played solid the last two days and to maintain it today was quite pleasing," Davies said. "I never did doubt myself. Even after that bogey at the 16th (his third consecutive bogey on the hole), I knew I could come back and make one or two birdies.


"I had my sights set on this tournament since I got back here this fall. This is a big event and it's our event, so winning here is very special," he said.


After winning five times last season and now twice already this season, Davies has certainly put himself in a front-running position toward player of the year honors. As a sophomore, he finished third in the final Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings behind Ryan Moore of UNLV and Spencer Levin of New Mexico, both of whom are now professionals.


"I feel I'm one of the dominant players in college golf and I think this win helps prove it," Davies said. "But that's not for me to say. All I can do is go out and play my best and let my clubs speak for me."


If that's the case, then so far, Davies' clubs are speaking quite loudly.

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Ron Balicki is a Golfweek senior writer. To reach him e-mail
[email protected].