Troy banks a big opportunity for itself with runaway win at Golfweek/Any Given Tuesday Intercollegiate

For a new coach looking to put his stamp on a program, competition schedule is as good a place to start as any. When Forrest Schultz arrived as the head men’s golf coach at Troy last year, he worked the phones to make schedule a selling point. The goal is always to get into the strongest fields.

On Wednesday, Schultz’s players gave him one back.

Troy might be the first college golf team to secure its spot in a major college golf tournament by winning a different one. For winning the Golfweek/Any Given Tuesday Intercollegiate at True Blue Golf Club in Pawley’s Island, the Trojans locked in a spot in next year’s Augusta/Haskins Award Invitational. It’s perennially one of the best fields in men’s college golf, with Pepperdine, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Illinois among the teams already committed for 2024.

It’s also played right before Masters week, and each team in the field traditionally receives tickets for Monday’s practice round at Augusta National.

“Strength of schedule is huge, that’s a premier event every year,” said Schultz, who came to Troy after eight seasons coaching the men’s and women’s golf teams at Henderson State, an NCAA Division II school in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. “To have the Masters practice-round tickets afterwards, that obviously is going to be a very special week for our team and something that these guys are going to look on way beyond college and remember fondly.”

Fifth-year senior Will McFadden joked with Schultz that this week was for the recruits. He’ll be long gone by the time Troy rolls into Augusta next spring, but McFadden’s second-round 69 helped Troy set a school record for 18 holes and pull away from the field.

Sophomore Jake Springer went 3 under through the first five holes of the final round and from there, Troy was all but untouchable.

“We wanted to figure out how many holes we could attack because the fairways are really wide there,” Schultz said of the gameplan for True Blue. “We wanted to make sure that we were going to take the most efficient line we could off the tee box to give us the best opportunity to get wedges in our hand.”

Troy was 24 under over three rounds at True Blue, and played the final round in 11 under, which was the lowest round of the day by eight shots. Ranked No. 99 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings and the only top-100 team in the field, the Trojans finished the week with a 22-shot edge on Delaware and Connecticut, tied for second.

Springer finished second individually at 8 under, with teammates Brantley Scott and Jason Quinlan tied for fifth at 5 under. Nicklas Borrmann was T9 with McFadden bringing in a T-22.

Connecticut’s Jared Nelson won the individual title at 9 under.

Schultz pegs this team’s strength as accuracy off the tee. He has put an emphasis on short game so that, as a group, his players can convert more scoring opportunities.

Leading up to True Blue, Troy finished second at Auburn’s Tiger Invitational and T-4 at Florida State’s Seminole Intercollegiate, the latter at the notoriously difficult Seminole Legacy Golf Course in Tallahassee, Florida. Those starts, in the company of Power 5 programs, felt like a shot in the arm for Troy. True Blue offered wider fairways and less yardage than the previous week’s test at Seminole, and Schultz thinks those factors freed up his players to post such low rounds.

Back home in Troy, Alabama, Schultz doesn’t see why the facilities and resources his team has access to shouldn’t produce a top-50 team year in, year out.

“We feel like we can be a team that can compete inside of the top 50 every year,” he said, “but it does require that you build a schedule that will allow you to get that ranking.”

The Trojans won three consecutive events last spring. Troy’s Athletic Director started showing up with cake to celebrate, and Schultz imagined there’d be more of it by the time his team returned home from Pawley’s Island – maybe even some ice cream, too. If this team keeps winning, he said, he might just have to throw some steaks on the grill.

Schultz looks for high-character, hard-nosed players for Troy’s roster, but he cuts that with lightheartedness and a clear appreciation for food. Troy faced an eight-hour drive home from Pawley’s Island post-victory, but there were plans to make a stop at Chick-fil-A for a big order ending in milkshakes.

A phone call from Brian Stubbs, Executive Director of the Haskins Foundation, also broke up the drive. Stubbs was calling to issue an official invitation to next year’s Haskins tournament.

“Coach said, ‘I got you on speaker phone,’ and about then the guys started cheering and clapping and they were fired up about it,” Stubbs said. “That made it for me. We want guys to be excited about going to the tournament.”

No problem there.

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