Getting Past ‘Almost’

Steven Fisk looks to make history and lead Georgia Southern out of second place

In his final year as a member of the Georgia Southern Men’s Golf Team, Steven Fisk has experienced his share of almosts.

In 2017, when Fisk was a sophomore, the Eagles were one putt away from a Sun Belt Championship. In final match play, Jake Storey’s putt to win rolled to the left, and Alex Herrmann from Georgia State sank a 10-footer to clinch the title. In 2018, the Eagles faced a Coastal Carolina team on fire. The Chanticleers gathered steam in later tournament rounds and never looked back on their way to a championship, downing the Eagles 4-1 in the match play championship.

“If somebody plays really well and beats you, you just gotta respect that,” said Fisk. “There’s nothing you can do about that. You work your butt off and play as hard as you can, and if somebody is just better than you that day, there’s nothing you can do. It was a little easier to swallow than my sophomore year.”

Despite the team’s agonizing defeat, and missing an invitation to regionals by less than 10 spots in the rankings, Fisk still managed to put together one of the most impressive seasons in program history. He won two events outright, placed in the top 10 seven times, shot 26 rounds of 72 or lower, 10 rounds of 67 or lower, and finished the year with a 69.18 single-season stroke average — the best in University history.

If that wasn’t enough, he reached the No. 1 individual Golfstat ranking during the year, was on the watch list for the Palmer Cup, set a program record total score of 197 (-19) at the Autotrader Collegiate Classic, and tied an NCAA record with a score of 60 at the Warrior Princeville Makai Invitational in Princeville, Hawaii. Only 13 players in NCAA history have reached that score, and Fisk admits he was slightly frustrated because he missed a five-footer for birdie that would’ve made it 59.

“I think it’s the greatest fall season for an individual in the history of the program,” said Head Coach Carter Collins. “We’ve been around for 40-plus years.”

This year, the Eagles will enter the season without graduating seniors Jonas Vaisenen, Jake Storey and Archer Price, whose consistent play kept Georgia Southern in the running in several events. However, several returning players and new additions to the roster are making the Eagles 2018-19 season a promising one.

Over the summer, returning junior Brett Barron won the Georgia Amateur Championship by four strokes, shooting remarkable rounds of 68-69-66-68. He’s joined by returning sophomore Avery Price, who recently shot a 62 to tie the course record at the Fighting Irish Classic in Indiana, junior Luukas Alakulppi, sophomore Jacob Bayer, junior Alexander DeRosa, and senior Crawford Simmons.

Pictured (from left to right): Volunteer Asst. Coach Cody O’Toole, Price, Alakulppi, Bayer, Williams, Carr, Andress, Fisk, Collins

The Eagles also recruited one of the most talented new classes in recent memory. The University secured two No. 1-ranked high school players in Ben Carr, from Columbus, Georgia, and Mason Williams, from Bridgeport, West Virginia. Wilson Andress, from Macon, Georgia, was ranked second in the state, and junior college transfer Jake Maples from McDonough, Georgia, was a firstteam All-American last year.

“I think we’ll have more depth than we did last year,” said Fisk. “I think this year we may see a little more rotation in the lineup just because with all the depth we have, I think we’ll have some guys who start, some who get hot at different times. Maybe if you weren’t in a lineup in one tournament, all of a sudden you’re playing really well and you’re in the lineup for the next one.

“Everybody will be competing all the time and really fighting. Yeah, maybe it’ll raise the intensity level a little bit.”

The Eagles Fall 2018 season has been one for the record books. Fisk has won four out of four events, and the team won two events — The Hummingbird Intercollegiate and the Autotrader Classic. In early October, at the Fighting Irish Classic in Notre Dame, Indiana, the Eagles shot the lowest round of golf in school history and set a tournament record — an 18-under-par 266, which beat the previous school record of 271 set at the 1980 Gator Invitational.

In addition, those highly ranked incoming freshmen have lived up to the hype. Golfstat ranks them the top freshman class in the country.

“I am very proud of Steven and this team for what they have been able to accomplish to this point,” said Collins. “We are looking forward and the best is yet to come!”

It’s an impressive start for the team, and for Fisk, the beginning of a legacy.

“I’m hoping I can maybe make that gap a little bit wider after my senior year is over with,” he said. “I’d like to set a good number out there for some of the younger guys to chase down.”

— Doy Cave