Masters Week is here. With all the hoopla of the world's biggest golf event being in our backyard we often overlook some other great things happening this time of year. Here is a look at a few Columbia County products that deserve a little Masters Week recognition.
Carter Newman (Evans/Augusta State golf)
Newman and his ASU teammates are enjoying one of the finest seasons in school history. The Jags are ranked No. 3 in the country in the Division I poll and appear primed to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament later this spring.
Last week, ASU hosted the 63rd Administaff ASU Invitational at Forest Hills Golf Club. The field was loaded with top programs. Five of the top 18 and eight of the top 50 golf programs in the nation were on hand. The Jags overpowered the Forest Hills layout and crushed the talented field en route to a record setting victory.
ASU closed with a 15-under 273 in the final round to claim an amazing 16-shot win over second place South Carolina. Duke, Clemson and Tennessee rounded out the top five, but the weekend belonged to ASU.
The Jags finished with a tournament record 47-under and had the top three individual finishers led by medalist Henrik Norlander. Norlander carded a final round 7-under 65 to finish 15-under for a two shot win.
Columbia County native Newman also played well for ASU. He opened with 3-under 69, then carded his career low competitive college round with a 4-under 68 in the second round. Newman closed with a 1-under 71 to finish the weekend 8-under and in a tie for seventh place.
That's a tremendous showing, considering how many of the top players in the country were in the field.
Vaughn Taylor (Evans/PGA Tour pro)
Taylor played his high school golf at Hephzibah and was an All-American at Augusta State. Taylor now resides in Evans and he nearly pulled off a feat that would have even taken a little bit of the attention off Tiger Woods.
Needing a victory at the Shell Houston Open to earn a Masters invitation, Taylor holed a clutch putt to birdie the 72nd hole, then watched as Anthony Kim made bogey on the same hole to force a sudden death playoff.
Unfortunately, Taylor hit his tee shot on the first playoff hole in a fairway bunker, then found the sand on his approach, and was unable to get up and down. His bogey gave the win to Kim.
While Taylor missed out on a spot in the Masters field, it was still a huge weekend for him. He pocketed $628,000 for his second place finish. That paycheck vaults him from 71st to 19th on the PGA Tour money list. The Top 30 finishers on the money list at the end of the year earn a spot in the Tour Championship and get an invitation to the 2011 Masters.
Jeff Rowland and Brandon Cumpton (Greenbrier/Georgia Tech)
Rowland has always hit for average. As a senior at Greenbrier he hit .410, and then made a solid adjustment to college pitching by hitting .335 as a freshman at Georgia Tech. Last season, he hit .342 and, as a draft-eligible sophomore, was selected by the Cleveland Indians in the 21st round.
But the speedy center fielder decided to return to Georgia Tech for his junior year. Because he has been incredibly consistent at the plate, it was a surprise when Rowland got off to a sluggish start this season.
Fortunately, the slow start is a distant memory as Rowland has heated up big time in recent weeks for the Jackets. Over the past 20 games, Rowland has hit safely in 17 and had a 10-game hitting streak. During the 20-game stretch he hit .354 (28 for 79), launched six homers, drove in 17 runs from his leadoff spot, and scored an astounding 38 runs.
His hot streak has helped him raise his season average to .315. He leads the Jackets in runs scored with 44. He also tops the Jackets in steals (six) and triples (five). His home run total is up to eight, and he has a .429 on base percentage. Cumpton is off to a terrific start this season. In his latest outing, he improved his record to a team-best 5-0, with a solid seven innings of work against Duke. He struck out seven and allowed three earned runs as Georgia Tech clobbered the Blue Devils 21-5.
The hard throwing right-hander has made seven starts for the Yellow Jackets this season and has emerged as the squad's No. 2 starter. Georgia Tech is 25-3 and ranked third in the nation.
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