By Devin Golden
This year’s Carpet Capital Collegiate Classic may have one of its toughest fields yet.
Fifteen teams — including last year’s winner, Auburn, and the 2012 NCAA national champion, Texas — will compete in the 24th edition of the college tournament this weekend at The Farm Golf Club in Rocky Face. The 54-hole tournament begins today and ends Sunday.
The number of teams is up from recent-year totals of 12 and showcases what tournament co-chair Andy Bargeron expects to be a competitive group.
“Because of the economic conditions, we reduced the number of teams because it was tough getting money,” he said. “We’ve had as many as 18 before, but 15 is more manageable. We have a really good field. This is one of the strongest fields we’ve had in a while. We have the defending national champions, and Texas and Alabama are ranked No. 1 and 2 right now.”
Also competing are tourney host Georgia Tech, the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, Clemson, Georgia, Kennesaw State, LSU, Middle Tennessee State, North Carolina, North Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee and Wake Forest.
“Obviously this is a great tournament with a lot of great teams,” Georgia Tech junior Bo Andrews said. “It gives us as many chances to keep getting better.”
This event is the season opener for many teams in the field and serves as a good benchmark for where a squad is as the year starts.
“It’s just a great way to start the season,” said Kennesaw State coach Jay Moseley. “It’s definitely regarded as one of the best events in college golf. … You always want to be playing your best golf at the end of the season, but how you do in this tournament definitely will tell where your team is starting out.”
Said Georgia coach Chris Haack, “It’s a great field. There are a lot of good teams here. I guess that’s one of the things we’ll find out this weekend is how we stack up, whether we’ve got to improve or if we are getting our way into the mix. That’s something we’ll find out.”
UTC’s Mocs may have more of a home-course advantage than any other school. UTC is the closest in location to The Farm and junior Chris Robb said the Mocs play at the course approximately once every two weeks.
“This is as close to home as we get,” Robb said. “We always look forward to playing here. We play here a lot during the season.”
One thing no one wants is suspended play due to rain, but Saturday may be the obstacle. According to weather.com, there is a 60 percent chance for showers. Bargeron hopes the course’s upper-echelon technology helps it, if necessary.
“If it’s not lightning and doesn’t rain too hard, then we’ll play. It depends on how severe it is,” he said. “We put in a drain system a couple years ago that will make this course quicker than most to play again after it rains.”
The college golfers will also be the first tournament field on the course since a major renovation this summer. The club’s greens were switched from bent grass to MiniVerde Bermuda, a move that will eventually make for firmer, faster greens.
However, the club’s director of golf, Deck Cheatham, recently told The Daily Citizen he didn’t expect scores to rise for this year’s Carpet Capital Collegiate Classic.
“The golf course will play a little bit differently because of the greens,” Cheatham said. “This year will be the easiest because the greens will be the easiest that they will be. Next year, it will be a bear. It will be difficult.”
The tournament is open to the public and free to attend.