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GSW set to open spring season as No. 1 team in D-II

GSW coach Andrew Danna and the Hurricanes found out Wednesday that they are the top ranked team in Division II entering this weekend's season-opening tournament.

GSW coach Andrew Danna and the Hurricanes found out Wednesday that they are the top ranked team in Division II entering this weekend's season-opening tournament.

AMERICUS — Move on over, West Florida.

For that matter, all of Division II can step to the side for the Georgia Southwestern men’s golf team, which overtook West Florida on Wednesday for the No. 1 ranking at Golfstat.com.

The Hurricanes, who won three tournaments in the fall, were ranked No. 2 throughout the winter by Golfstat, the official source for college golf statistics. But West Florida’s eighth-place finish in a tournament over the weekend dropped the Argonauts all the way to No. 9, opening the door for GSW, which begins its spring season Saturday in the Frito Lay AT&T Tournament in Philadelphia, Miss.

GSW second-year coach Andrew Danna, whose Hurricanes were ranked outside of the Top 100 at this time last season, said his players are ready to step up to the challenge of being ranked No. 1 in the nation.

“It’s the same feeling as being No. 2, except now we are the guys with the target on ours backs,” Danna said.

Danna then added: “For the past year and a half we have been the underdogs. I send the same message to our guys week in and week out. We play for opportunities, and we need to keep that same mentality. The ranking is nice, but when you get out of the van to go play a tournament you may as well throw those ranking out the window.”

GSW senior Craig Gibson and juniors J.P. Griffin and Nate Gahman, a Leesburg native, made the most of those opportunities in the fall, leading the Hurricanes to a perfect 10-0 record against Top 10 teams and a winning percentage that ranks No. 2 in the nation among all divisions, trailing only the University of Texas.

The Hurricanes think they can stay on top.

“It’s important to be consistent in our game,” Danna said. “So we try to work on things that will help create a certain amount of consistency that will carry us all the way through the spring on into the postseason.

“Consistency is key in college golf, so if you can do that you’ll win — and win a lot.”

Gibson, a 2010 All-Peach Belt Conference selection, led the Hurricanes with a 72.3 scoring average in the fall and Griffin was right behind with a 72.8 average. The two are ranked third and fourth, respectively, in the conference.

Gahman, a former Herald Player of the Year and an All-PBC selection in 2010-11, is also ranked inside the Top 10 in the PBC with a 73.3 average.

“These three, coupled with senior Chris Hall, who had quite a few key rounds in the fall, are pretty tough to beat, if you ask me,” Danna said. “They all have a tremendous amount of tournament experience, which I think will come in handy later on this spring and on into the regionals, and so on.”

GSW will be the only D-II team in the field this weekend, with the rest of the participants being Division I programs.

The Hurricanes are also ranked No. 10 in the Golf World/NIKE Golf Coaches Poll. The coaches poll, however, doesn’t carry as much weight as Golfstat, which is used to determine which teams make regionals.