FLORENCE, S.C. – The Francis Marion University golf team begins the 2020-21 season by heading to the Intercollegiate at The Grove beginning today and concluding Tuesday in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
The Patriots will compete against the host school Middle Tennessee, Appalachian State, UT Chattanooga, Coastal Carolina, Lamar, Louisiana Tech, Louisiana Monroe, Mercer, Southern Mississippi, Troy, Western Carolina, and Western Kentucky at The Grove Club course, which measures 7,368 yards and par 72.
FMU coach Mark Gaynor will begin his 18th season at the helm of the Francis Marion golf program. The Patriots won the 2004 Peach Belt Championship in his first year as coach and made the 2004 and 2005 NCAA Regionals before moving up to compete as a NCAA DI independent.
“We’re looking forward to getting the season underway,” said Gaynor. “It’s been an unbelievable semester for everybody. The guys are excited. It’s great to finally be able to get out and play. The guys are really looking forward to it. It’s a great venue, and with everything that’s going on it’s just been a very unique scenario, and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Francis Marion returns nine letterwinners from last year's squad that had two top-10 finishes prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The only newcomer to the team is freshman Markus Skjelstad from Fredrikstad, Norway.
Gaynor will be taking six Patriots to compete at the opening event. The line-up will likely consist of senior John Burghardt, sophomores Casper Kennedy and Mitchell Vance of Hartsville and juniors McClure Thompson, Grainger Howle of Darlington and McBee's Grant Sellers.
Burghardt played in all seven events during the shortened 2019-20 season. He led the team with a 74.15 stroke average and carded a career-low 66 during the first round of the Cleveland Golf Palmetto Intercollegiate. He also had a pair of Top-10 finishes, including a season-best ninth place showing at the 2020 Invitational at Savannah Harbor.
Burghardt is ranked 333rd in the PGA TOUR University full player rankings released Oct. 8.
Kennedy is coming off a freshman year where he had one Top-10 finish and was second on the team with a 74.82 stroke average. He played in six of the seven events in the abbreviated season.
Thompson played in five events last season and was third on the team with a 75.14 stroke average. He carded four rounds of par or better, including a low round of 70. He had a career best Top-4 finish at the Invitational at Savannah Harbor.
Howle is also entering his junior year at Francis Marion. He played in four of the seven events in the abbreviated season, and was fourth on the team with a 76 stroke average.
Vance made his collegiate debut last season at the River Run Collegiate. He placed 70th with a low round of 75.
Sellers is coming off a sophomore year where he played in four of the seven events. He carded two rounds of par or better, including a low round of 70. His best finish was 41st at the 2019 Intercollegiate at The Grove.
The first round begins today with 18 holes set for each day. Live scoring will be available through www.golfstat.com.
“Having played there before will definitely help,” said Gaynor. “The Grove is a phenomenal facility. It’s a big-boy golf course. Strategy wise, it’s real simple and the same: hit the fairways and hit the greens. We just have to utilize the practice round the best we can to get ready to go.”
For the second and final stop of its abbreviated fall slate, Francis Marion will make its way to Statesboro, Ga., for a tournament hosted by Georgia Southern University on Oct. 19-20.
Teeing off the spring season, the Patriots will host the 16th-annual Wexford Plantation Intercollegiate Tournament, Feb. 22-23, at Hilton Head Island. Francis Marion will then head to the Cleveland Golf Palmetto Intercollegiate in Aiken, March 8-9. FMU will make its way to Wilmington, N.C, for the Seahawk Intercollegiate at The Country Club of Landfall on March 14-15.
The Patriots will make the quick drive to Greenville for the Furman Intercollegiate at the Furman University Golf Course, March 26-28, and for the final stop of the spring slate, Francis Marion will play at the Wofford Invitational in Spartanburg, April 12-13.
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