MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin golf team will open its 2013 spring season Sunday with a practice round at the Dancing Rabbit Golf Course in Philadelphia, Miss., and then compete in the two-day, 54-hole Frito Lay/Taco Bell Intercollegiate hosted by Jackson State.
“Despite the weather, we were able to get in all our practice and work,” UT Martin head golf coach Jerry Carpenter said.
Carpenter said all five of his golfers – Tyler Shellnut (72.6), Brendon Caballero (73.4), Ben Reeves (74.0), Tyler Guy (74.1) and Graham Sleigh (74.3) – are basically the top five from the fall season’s statistics.
“All five of the guys are among the top 21 in scoring average in the OVC (Ohio Valley Conference),” Carpenter said.
The five include one senior (Sleigh), one junior (Shellnut), one sophomore (Caballero) and two freshmen (Reeves and Guy).
“This is a fine mix,” Carpenter said. “They are my five best players. I am sure we will have some adjustments as we go along this season.”
Carpenter said he has a couple of other golfers, namely junior Clay Harbin and senior Taylor Deming, who could contribute. In fact, Harbin will compete as an individual in the tournament.
Just a year ago, Caballero, the lone freshman in Carpenter’s lineup won the tournament by shooting an even-par 72 in the final round for a 147 two-round total. The Skyhawks finished fifth in the tournament field. McNeese State from the Southland Conference won last year’s tournament with a two-round 604.
“This tournament always has a good mixture of players,” Carpenter said. The Skyhawks will compete against a couple of team from the OVC, the Missouri Valley Conference, the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) and a couple of teams from the East Coast. “Teams such as McNeese State, Nicholls State and Bethune-Cookman could be tough,” the coach said.
Regardless of the competition the golf course could be the toughest foe for UT Martin.
“This is a great golf course,” Carpenter said. “It’s very challenging. You must be a good ball striker to score.”
Dancing Rabbit is nestled among towering pines and stunning oaks in the rolling hills region of east central Mississippi. The club includes two par-72 courses, the Azaleas and the Oaks. Each course covers 7,000 yards. The courses also feature Champion Bermuda grass greens and A-4Bent grass greens with Zoysia and Bermuda fairways. The courses were designed by Tom Fazio and PGA great Jerry Pate.
“The kids are ready, and I am excited about this season,” Carpenter said.