Statistics say Columbus State is the favorite to win this week's Peach Belt Conference Golf Championships, but the Cougars won't be favored by much.
CSU enters the three-round tournament, which will be played today and Tuesday at the Harbor Club in Greensboro, Ga., with little margin for error.
The Cougars lead the PBC with a 293.5-per-round stroke average, but the difference between first and fourth is less than two strokes. Armstrong Atlantic is second in the league at 295.3 and Georgia College and USC-Aiken are tied at 295.4.
"It's nice to know that when things come down to it, if we all play according to our average that we should win the tournament," said CSU coach Mark Immelman, whose fifth-ranked Cougars began the spring ranked first in the nation.
The Cougars sit atop a logjam of five conference schools ranked in the top 15 of the Golf World/Nike Golf Division II coaches poll, just ahead of Aiken (sixth), Armstrong (seventh), Georgia College (eighth) and USC-Upstate (15th).
Andrew Georgiou leads the Cougars with a 72.6 stroke average, good for second in the Peach Belt behind USC-Upstate's Baxter Culler (72.5). CSU's Brandon Kuban (73.7) and Christian Ries (73.8) also rank among the league's most consistent scorers.
CSU has placed in the top five in nine of the 10 tournaments it has played this season and has won once this spring, in last month's Grub Mart-Young Oil Intercollegiate in which it was the only non-Division I team in the field.
But the Cougars are by no means assured of adding to that list of top-five finishes this week. Six of the nine competing teams have won a tournament this year and several of them finished ahead of CSU at various events.
The team to beat is probably still Aiken, which has won the last two conference tournaments and three straight Division II titles. The Pacers are not quite the force they've been in the last few years, but they've still won three tournaments and boast the golfer, Roberto Diaz, whose 65 in the Palmetto Intercollegiate was the lowest single-round score in the league this year.
Immelman believes the defending champs are the biggest obstacle between the Cougars and their first conference championship since 1998.
"I always say if you're beating Aiken, you're going to be near the top at the end of the tournament," Immelman said. "So I'd have to say if there's one that we need to beat, it would be Aiken."
The first two rounds of the 54-hole tournament will be played today, beginning at 8:30 a.m., at the par-72 course. The final round begins Tuesday at the same time.