Tuesday the Ole Miss men's golf team posted its third straight top 5 finish in three fall tournaments as Coach Ernest Ross' troops battled a tough wind and a long course to post yet another positive score in the revival of the Rebel golf program.
This was more fun day than work day for me, although under the guise of being a media member, I did manage to get some "work" out of it. Anytime I attend a Rebel sporting event, there's a good chance I'll find something to write about.
I called this place the "famed" South Course at Colonial (as opposed to the not-so-famous North Course that adjoins it) because its 7,300 rolling green yards of par 72 are where one of golf's most historic rounds was played.
It was June 10, 1977, in the second round of the Danny Thomas Memphis Classic, now called the FedEx St. Jude Classic and now played at nearby the TPC at Southwind, that Al Geiberger posted his famous "59" during the Friday round of that four-day tourney.
It was the first time in PGA history a player had shot under 60 in a PGA Tour event. Since then only a couple of players have matched it. There were probably 20,000 people there that day. Probably 2 million have said they were there. I actually was one of the fortunate ones.
I was a teenager walking the course with my Dad that day. Geiberger was paired with fellow pros Jerry McGee and Dave Stockton. My Dad had played in the tournament's Pro-Am two years earlier with Stockton. So we were back two years later to follow him.
Then all of a sudden and out of nowhere, the history of golf changed forever right before us.
We actually followed the threesome for 12 holes – 6 on the front, 6 on the back. We saw, as did the other 20,000 or so gathered around his final hole (on this day No. 9 since he started on the 10th tee), Geiberger's final birdie putt go in.
It was like few moments I've witnessed. Most of the golfers in the tournament that week were out there near the 9th green watching that final putt. They knew this was one to tell the grandkids about later.
So when I saw on the schedule earlier this fall that the Rebels would be playing at Memphis this week, I thought it might just be a good time to go back to old Colonial, which last hosted the PGA's Memphis stop in 1988.
So I called my Dad to see if he wanted to go, and he did.
The Rebels were struggling a bit when we got there. The first shot we saw was maybe the best of the day for a Rebel. Sophomore Chris Rogers was in a fairway trap on the 10th hole. He took into his hands what appeared to be a six or seven iron, gave it a mighty swing, or at least as much as his 5-foot-8, 140-pound frame will allow, and blasted out of the trap. We watched the ball hit a few feet right of the hole, spin left, and wind up three inches from the cup.
It even impressed his Louisville and Mississippi State playing partners.
The tourney was set up like most college tournaments – three rounds; 36 holes the first day, 18 the next.
The Rebels were in sixth place following yesterday's 36. It was their highest first-day start so far this fall in three tournaments.
Halfway through the round when we got there today, it appeared the Rebels might fall even further.
But as the round continued, the Rebels picked it up, much of that due to the again stellar play of fifth-year senior Jordan Dempsey.
The Jacksonville, Fla., native finished this tournament tied for second with rounds of 73-73-70, that effort coming on the heels of a second place finish in last week's Vanderbilt Tournament and a fourth-place finish at the USM tourney two weeks ago.
Dempsey's experience and maturity are showing up for the Rebels this fall.
Senior Ryan Michals eagled the par-five 16th hole to help make up some ground for his team. He finished as the second best Rebel in this tourney tying for 20th.
The final Rebel scoring tally for the Memphis tournament was as follows:
T-2. Jordan Dempsey (73-73-70--216, E); T-20. Ryan Michals (74-74-76--224); T-25. Chris Rogers (74-77-74--225); T-42. David Marino (76-72-81--229); T-58. Callum Macaulay (76-81-76--233).
It wasn't their best showing of the fall. They won the USM tourney two weeks ago and finished fourth in the Vandy tourney last week. But the field was tough, the course a bear, and the conditions not quite perfect.
Yet there were no excuses from the Rebels as they had to again feel pretty good about another top 5 finish in Ross' first year back as head coach.
This was the first time I'd seen a Rebel golf team in action since I covered the SEC Tournament at Old Waverly in West Point back in 1991. But you have to remember that rarely does a Rebel golf team play this close to home.
Hattiesburg two weeks ago and Memphis this week were as close as they've played around here in a long time.
Three top 5 finishes including one tourney title in three starts.
Whatever this Rebel team may lack in terms of great talent, they more than make up for with effort, heart, and character.
That's not to say there aren't talented players here now. Certainly there are, and there is great competition among the players for each tournament's five spots.
Kyle Ellis, the super sophomore from Senatobia who tied for first at the USM event two weeks ago, didn't even make the traveling squad for this tournament when the Rebels fought it out in qualifying last week.
Senior Jarrod Gardner of Austin, Texas, who in 2003 played in the U.S. Amateur at Oakmont, Pa., has yet to make a tournament field for the Rebels this fall, and today posted an outstanding even-par 72 in the windy conditions at the famed South Course playing as an individual, unattached to his Rebel team.
The Rebels didn't win this one, and they weren't completely happy with their play these last two days.
But one thing was clear as today's round moved from morning to afternoon – there is no quit in this year's Rebel golf team. A lesser group might have wilted under some pressure and the conditions of the day.
Host Memphis won the event with a strong nine-over 873. Xavier was next at 16-over 880.
Then it was a bunch of ‘em – Central Florida at plus 23; Louisville at plus 24; and the Rebels at plus 25.
If only a putt or three had gone in, the Rebs could have been third. But that can almost be said of any team at every tournament.
Ole Miss started the day in sixth, and Mississippi State in fifth.
The Bulldogs finished plus 27 as the Rebels moved into that fifth spot just ahead of State. USM finished ninth at plus 38.
So the Rebels won the instate war again. For a program looking for positives as a new era begins, that was one "win" Ole Miss will take every time.
All in all, a very interesting day at old Colonial.
Below is the story by Matt Segal of Ole Miss athletics media relations on the Rebels at the Memphis Tournament.
DEMPSEY COLLECTS THIRD STRAIGHT TOP-5 EFFORT; REBELS FINISH FIFTH AT MEMPHIS INTERCOLLEGIATE
Fifth-year senior Jordan Dempsey (73-73-70--216, E) matched his career-best finish -- a tie for second -- as the Ole Miss men's golf team placed fifth (297-296-296--889) at the 16-team Memphis Intercollegiate Tuesday afternoon.
"The wind was really swirling today, so I'm happy with a 70," Dempsey said. "I felt good on the course and under control the entire round. My goal was to stay at even and I finished two-under (par), so I feel like that's an accomplishment in itself."
Dempsey's tie for tournament runner-up comes after a second-place effort at the Mason Rudolph Championships Sept. 27-28 and fourth-place finish at the Raising Cane Classic Sept. 20-21.
"I want to eventually win a tournament, but I'm happy with how I've been playing so far," Dempsey added. "I think I've shown a lot of consistency in the first three outings. There are several golfers in the college game who finish in the top five one week and drop down to 25th or 30th the next. That's what I'm trying to avoid. If I can continue to stay around par each time out, I think it'll be a great season."
Senior Ryan Michals (74-74-76--224), competing in his first tournament of the season, finished the 54-hole affair in a five-way tie for 20th, while sophomore Chris Rogers (74-77-74--225) wrapped up in a five-way knot for 25th.
Freshman David Marino registered a 76-72-81--229 at the two-day event, while sophomore Callum Macaulay posted a 76-81-76--233. Competing as an individual, senior Jarrod Gardner trimmed five strokes off first two rounds to turn in a 77-77-72--226.
"There were very few scores under par today and that's primarily because of the windy conditions," Ole Miss head coach Ernest Ross said. "I'm really proud of Jordan Dempsey. He had another terrific tournament. As a team, I think we are capable of better scores. We will be facing a very solid field next week in Tampa and we need to find some ways to improve before heading down there."
The host Tigers (293-290-290--873) captured their second title of the fall with first-place finish. Xavier placed second (297-288-295--880), while Central Florida finished third (287-292-308--887) and Louisville took fourth (300-290-298--888).
The Rebels did manage to knock off in-state rivals Mississippi State (6th, 298-290-303--891) and Southern Miss (9th, 296-300-306--902).
Allan Thomas of Memphis (77-70-67--214) captured the individual championship Tuesday afternoon, while Neal Grusczynski of Xavier (72-69-75--216) tied, with Dempsey, for second.
Final Results from the MEMPHIS INTERCOLLEGIATE
(Colonial Country Club in Cordova, Tenn.)
1. Memphis (293-290-290--873); 2. Xavier (297-288-295--880); 3. Central Florida (287-292-308--887); 4. Louisville (300-290-298--888); 5. OLE MISS (297-296-296--889); 6. Mississippi State (298-290-303--891); 7. Tulane (297-297-300--894); 8. Arkansas-Little Rock (293-301-303--897); 9. Southern Miss (296-300-306--902); 10. Penn State (304-296-306--906); 11. Iowa State (308-304-303--915); 12. South Alabama (310-301-307--918); 13. Iowa (304-304-311--919); 14. Missouri (305-304-320--929); 15. South Florida (299-312-319--930); 16. Middle Tennessee (309-301-323--933)
Ole Miss Individuals:
T-2. Jordan Dempsey (73-73-70--216, E); T-20. Ryan Michals (74-74-76--224); T-25. Chris Rogers (74-77-74--225); T-42. David Marino (76-72-81--229); T-58. Callum Macaulay (76-81-76—233).
Editor Jeff follows the Rebs at a golf tourney
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