Columbus State hopes to do more than host the Peach Belt Conference Championships golf tournament, beginning Saturday at Callaway Gardens.
The men, ranked No. 9 in the nation and third in the region have the lowest team stroke average in the conference and expect to contend in the 54-hole tournament.
“We should be in the mix,” coach Mark Immelman said on Friday. “The competition is fairly deep. There are a lot of competitors our there, but I think we’ll be set to contend.”
The Cougars average 293.6 per round, 2.5 strokes better than the next best team, Georgia College.
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Immelman said that his team’s success comes from a lot of depth, and he expects that to be the case over the weekend.
“Thankfully this year, we’ve had any of our top five be one of the leading players on our team,” he said. “At any given time anyone can step up and take over.”
That includes Jesse Gibson, Bryan Lichimo and Robert Mize at the top, but also Yannick Gumowski and Jack Stumpfig, as well.
“If the top three have a good outing, obviously I like our chances,” Immelman said. “But the rest of the group can step up, too.”
That’s important for Columbus State, considering the field it will be up against.
North Carolina-Pembroke is the defending champion and South Carolina-Aiken enters the tournament ranked No. 3 in the nation.
On the women’s side, the leading contenders will be Pembroke, Armstrong, Flagler and Lander, each of which is ranked in the top 20 nationally. Lander has won twice and have three second-place finishes in its last five events and have the league’s lowest scoring average at 308.3.
Columbus State finished fifth in the conference tournament a year ago. It will look to improve on that standing, but will face stiff competition from those four teams.
The women will play 18 holes on the Lakeview course both Saturday and Sunday. The men will play 36 Saturday and 18 Sunday on the Mountain View course.
Immelman said that he doesn’t expect Friday’s bad weather to be much of an issue as far as course conditions go. While the temperatures may be lower, the system will have moved through.
“If there is wind behind it, that could make things a little bit more difficult, but that’s really about it,” he said.
Regardless of the conditions, he said that he expects the course to be a challenge for all the golfers.
“It asks you to be accurate with your approach to the greens,” he said. “The greens are small and well guarded by bunkers. If you miss, you have to have your wits about you to get up and down.”
Golfers are set to tee off at 8 a.m. on Saturday.
David Mitchell, 706-571-8571; Follow David on Twitter @leprepsports.