Ex-DWS star and Herald Player of the Year T.J. Mitchell watches a drive during the final round of his college career at UGA on Thursday. (University of Georgia/Special to The Herald)
MILTON — After a rough past few weeks, T.J. Mitchell plans to take the next month away from golf.
The Georgia senior, Deerfield-Windsor grad and former Herald Player of the Year finished his final collegiate round Thursday at the Capital City Club’s Crabapple Course in Milton ahead of the rest of his Georgia teammates.
And he finished it just like he started — with a bogey.
It wasn’t the way Mitchell, UGA’s leading scorer all year, wanted to end his career.
“I was wanting to play well and I wasn’t really playing that well coming into this,” Mitchell said. “I really enjoyed myself, (though).”
Mitchell began his senior season with a runner-up finished at the Carpet Capital Collegiate Classic in Rocky Face, shooting 10-under, and he even ended the regular season with a Top 10 finish and a 2-under at the Augusta State Invitational. But in postseason play, Mitchell struggled. He shot 12-over at the SEC tourney and another 12-over at the NCAA Tempe Regional, but some low scores from his younger teammates carried the Bulldogs to their third NCAA Championship appearance in Mitchell’s four season.
But his struggles continued at the championship hosted by Georgia Tech. Mitchell opened with a 7-over par 77 in the first round and again his score didn’t count toward the team total. He recovered, slightly, over the next two rounds, shooting 73-72.
His final score after three days in Milton: another 12-over par.
“I hit it awful. I hit it everywhere, didn’t know where it was going,” Mitchell said. “You can’t do that out here, especially coming in with firm greens. The last two days the greens softened up a lot. I hit it awful (Wednesday), I hit it a lot better (Thursday). I had it going there for a little bit today, missed a few birdie opportunities, but it was still fun.”
And that was the goal in Thursday’s final round. With Georgia well off the leaderboard to make the eight-team match play finals, Mitchell teed off knowing he was playing his last collegiate and amateur round.
“You think about it,” he said. “I tried to enjoy it as much as I could. I really didn’t have as much fun as I wanted the first two days.”
With’s Georgia highest, un-countable score, Mitchell watched his teammates and the future of Georgia golf finish their morning round before the team headed back to Athens. The road for Mitchell now turns toward an attempt at professional golf. After his hiatus, he plans to turn pro and play on area mini tours and, hopefully, some Monday qualifiers. In his four years playing for Georgia, Mitchell finished with 11 Top 10s and played with future professionals including Russell Henley and Harris English. Georgia golfers know the path to the PGA.
“I’ve learned so much,” Mitchell said. “I have had the opportunity to play with some great golfers.”
And that was his takeaway from his four seasons and five years in Athens. He learned to play better golf, even if his final round as a Bulldog didn’t exactly show it.
“I tried to soak it all in because it was my last round, but it’s bittersweet,” Mitchell said. “It’s been a great five years and four years of playing at Georgia. It’s time to move on.”
Georgia Tech closes in on national title
MILTON — Now, the real fun begins.
After three days of stroke play and striving to help Georgia Tech finish in the top eight and advance to match play in the Men’s NCAA Championship, Seth Reeves gets to play the golf he loves at a course built for his skills.
Reeves shot a team-best 2-under 68 on Thursday to seal the No. 2 seed for the Yellow Jackets golf team heading into the eight-team, three day match play showdown for the team national title. Tech will face UNLV today with the first group teeing off at 11:30 a.m.
Reeves’ three-day total was his first three tournament rounds under par for Georgia Tech this season and the best since he finished second at even-par in September at the same Capital City Club Crabapple Course in Milton — Tech’s home course.
Milton has a big, long track which allows Reeves to take advantage of his distance off the tee.
“It’s just been a while, I’ve kind of struggled some this year, been up and down a lot,” Reeves said. “I’ve learned a lot. I realized that I have to be myself. I am pretty happy to say that’s what I did. I was pretty confident and relaxed and just had fun.”
He smiled, laughing at the idea of match play.
“I love match play,” he said. “With my game and everything, I just love it. It actually relaxes me, even though it’s one-on-one, it relaxes me. It allows me to be pretty aggressive which is how I like to play. If I make a bogey, well I just lost a hole, I can just go all out.”
Georgia Tech coach Bruce Heppler, a proponent of not changing too much in match play, agreed the resurgent Reeves would ramp up his play.
“He’ll turn it loose,” Heppler said. “If it wasn’t loose before, it is now.”
Reeves’ Thursday round included an eagle 2 on the par 4 fifth hole. The big hitter drove the 320-yard green with a 3-wood and then ran in a 40-foot putt along the fringe.
“I felt like that gave us some momentum and it got the crowd going,” Reeves said. “My coach was jacked. I was jacked up.”
Reeves finished 4-under for the three days of stroke play, leaving him five strokes behind individual medalist Max Homa from Cal who shot 66 in his final round to finish 9-under for the tournament.
Cal entered the championship as the top seed and its roster turned in three solid, under-par rounds. The Bears took the top seed by six shots over Georgia Tech with a 16-under par score. Alabama and Texas finished 7-under. Illinois was 5-under and New Mexico, UNLV and Arizona State all finished at 2-over par. Texas A&M was also 2-over, but lost in a four-team playoff for the final three spots.
Georgia, meanwhile, finished a disappointing 19th and did not qualify for match play.
“Match play is a blast,” Tech’s top finisher Ollie Schniederjans said. “I have never done it in this team thing. It’s match play anything can happen.”
Schniederjans began his day 5-under par and struggled early with a bogey on the first hole and spent the entire round playing catch-up with even-par. He got there, but never made the run at that top he wanted.
“I felt like our team had built a nice cushion,” the sophomore said. “I was trying to win the golf tournament. Those four bogeys are the difference why I didn’t win the tournament (Thursday).”
Shun Yat Hak shot 1-over on the day for the Jackets, and Anders Albertson and Bo Andrews both shot 3-over 73s. Albertson’s round dropped him from the top 10 to tied for 26th.
“I am just proud of our guys with the way last year went and missing out on nationals,” Reeves said. “All we want to do was get to match play because everyone on our team is a good match play player. I am looking forward to it.”