With spring approaching, Augustans’ minds shift to golf. That’s especially true for the Augusta State University men’s golf team.
ASU is gearing up for its 34th annual Insperity Augusta State University Invitational, held the weekend before the The Masters. The two tournaments make the week before Masters a busy one, said Kevin McPherson, head coach of the men’s golf team.
The tournament allows the team to compete against the best players, including those from the University of Georgia and the University of Texas, as teams from around the country seek to play in the tournament, McPherson said. One of the reasons the tournament is so popular: Historically, as a tee gift for the visiting teams, players receive Monday practice round tickets for the Masters.
The gift has allowed ASU to challenge its players by choosing their opponents from among the best teams in college golf, McPherson said. The proximity to the famous golf club also has allowed McPherson to recruit players from around the world, with current team members hailing from Sweden, Thailand, Australia, England and the United States.
“At the end of the day, we’re looking for the best player that would benefit our team,” he said.
One of those players is an Augusta native.
Cody Shafer, a sophomore business management major from Evans, is the only local player on the golf team. Graduating from Greenbrier High School in 2011, Shafer was a target for recruitment to the golf team starting in 2009, McPherson said.
“He was probably the best player in the CSRA,” McPherson said – maybe even in Georgia.
Augusta State was up against a lot of competition to recruit Shafer, who was considering attending Auburn University before he chose ASU.
“I wanted to go somewhere and play where they have a good practice facility,” Shafer said. “Playing all the courses we play, I’d say it’s a big help growing up here.”
For 20-year-old Shafer, golf has always been a part of his family, swallowing him up since before he could remember.
“As soon as I could walk, my dad put a club in my hand,” he said.
Shafer dabbled in other sports until he started playing on Greenbrier Middle School’s golf team in the sixth grade.
Now playing for Augusta State, Shafer said it’s been a tremendous experience being able to play against the best teams in the country and alongside some of the world’s best players.
“It’s fun,” he said. “The talent level we’re playing against will really make us better.”
It’s also fun to play those teams on ASU’s home course, he added.
McPherson agreed. The Insperity has a rich history, having featured players who later found success in pro golf.
“Some of the players you see here will be playing the Masters three or four years from now,” McPherson said, citing players such as Phil Mickleson.
Shafer said it will be interesting to see this year’s tournament.
“All we can ask for is to play our best and see what happens,” he said.