Macaulay, Rebs head to SEC golf tourney

Callum Macaulay had worn jeans and a jersey to the first couple of football games back when he was a freshman in 2002. Macaulay said a fellow Rebel golf teammate informed him that he might need to dress up a little if he was going to hang out in The Grove and root for the Rebs.

"Jordan Dempsey (former Rebel golfer) kind of looked after me my freshman year," Macaulay, from Kincardine, Scotland, said. "He told me for the Florida game I'd have to dress up. ‘You're kind of embarrassing us not dressing up,' he said. So I told him ‘I'll show you embarrassing,' and I had my mother send my kilt over from Scotland.

"I had my kilt on that day," he said of the Florida game. "I got some looks. Some laughed, some thought it was cool, some thought it was stupid."

The Rebels beat the Gators 17-14, and that made the whole day even more memorable for Macaulay. Since then he's made a lot more memories at Ole Miss, and he's now playing the best golf of his career.

Macaulay, 23-years-old, has been impressive lately. He was named the SEC Golfer of the Week for his outstanding performance at the Palisades Collegiate Golf Classic in Charlotte, N.C., April 9-10.

"I feel my game's made steps this year," he said. "I've gotten stronger mentally. My game on the course is about the same. I'm just thinking differently, and it's making a big difference. I've matured in a lot of ways since I've gotten older."

At this year's SEC Tournament which begins Friday at Sea Island on St. Simons Island, Ga., Macaulay will be joined by teammates Chris Rogers, Brice Bailey, David Marino, and Will Roebuck.

"We played decent in the fall and we won Vanderbilt's tournament," Macaulay said. "There were a lot of teams there from our region. It was a shame that it was the last tournament of the fall, because we couldn't carry any momentum into the spring. We beat Southern Miss in a challenge match in Gulfport (in February) on a course we'd never played. They had played it two or three times, and we had never played it, not even a practice round. We beat them by nine shots, and that said a lot about our team."

The Rebs rocked along for a while and didn't play up to their own admitted capabilities.

"The frustrating thing was that we prepared so well every week," Macaulay said. "We were putting a lot of work in and not getting any rewards. We all felt we were playing well; we just couldn't score."

Things got better later in the season, and the Rebels head to the SEC Tournament with some momentum. Their third-place showing at the Palisades tourney was their best of the spring.

"Everyone's really excited," Macaulay said. "We're confident going over there this week."

Macaulay's been at Ole Miss for five years. He took a year off from school right after high school. He wanted to come to the U.S. for college. A group took his resume' and sent it to colleges in the states. He remembers responses from Ole Miss, UAB, and North Florida.

"I didn't know anything about Ole Miss or the SEC," he said. "I'd never even been here. My first day here was the scariest day of my life."

Macaulay says his time at Ole Miss has been special, even those select few days when he got some looks for wearing a kilt.

"It's been the chance, the experience, of a lifetime," said Macaulay, who roomed during his time at Ole Miss with former baseball players Brian Pettway, John Morgan Mims, and Stoney Stone. "I've made great friends here and I'll miss them. But I'm ready for the next step and to try to make a living at what I've always wanted to do."

A possible professional future in golf can wait a few more weeks, maybe even a year or two, he says. Macaulay and his fellow senior teammates say they want to finish well in the SEC Tournament and participate in the NCAA Tournament. The consensus is that the Rebels will have to finish at least top 6 this weekend to make the NCAA field.

"We're trying to approach it without so much pressure," said Chris Rogers of Franklin, Tenn. "We're on the bubble. There's no difference in the SEC Tournament than any other tournament. It's just another day on the golf course and we have to approach it that way."

"We just have to play up to our capabilities," said Brice Bailey of Memphis, Tenn. "We're older and more mature this year, and we know we have the ability. We're going in there knowing we haven't played as well as we can, and we're going there to prove something. All five of us have played together all spring, and that's really helped."

Ole Miss head coach Ernest Ross said the team knows what it needs to do, and now it needs to go out and get it done.

"This isn't a course that we've played well the past few years," said Ross, who during his first stint as head coach at Ole Miss led the Rebels to the SEC title in 1984. "Right now if I had to seed our team, I'd say we're the seventh or eighth best team in the SEC."

Ross said the Sea Island course does not necessarily favor his team.

"We're a power team. This course doesn't favor those type teams," Ross said. "Our guys can really knock it out there. The (PGA) average tour player has a ball speed of 163 miles an hour which equates to about 280 yards. We've got four guys whose ball speed is about 170, which means they can spot the average tour pro 15 or 20 yards and can hit it in the 300 range. Down-range and with the wind I've seen our some of our guys hit it 350 to 375. They can really hit it. But this is a position course and not a power course, so we'll go play and see how it goes."

Ross also says it's fairly cut and dried in his opinion as to what the Rebs must do to continue playing after this weekend.

If we finish 1-6 (at the SEC tourney), I believe we're in (the NCAA)," he said. "If we finish 7-8, we're on the bubble; 9-12 and we probably won't make it. That's a lot of pressure, but that's probably the way things look for us. We've just got three rounds in one tournament. I know these players want to do well very badly. We're looking forward to it."

Ross likes his team, the third since he returned to coach at Ole Miss.

"They have great work ethic. They love to play and they love to practice and work at it," Ross said, assisted this year by Jonathan Dismukes, a Calhoun County native who is a former Auburn golfer. This group is the epitomy of desire, and I'm very proud of them."

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