Q/A with Bowen Sargent - ACC Preview
This weekend the Virginia men’s golf team heads to New London, N.C. for the ACC Championships. The Cavaliers have posted a terrific resume this season with eight top-five finishes in nine tournament outings. Virginia is ranked No. 21 in this week’s Golfstat rankings and is one of five ACC teams in the top-25. Live scoring will be linked to the front page of VirginiaSports.com.
There are five ACC teams in the Golfstat top-25 this week and a couple of others just below that mark. There does not appear to be a clear-cut favorite going into the ACC Championships. How does that set up this year’s event?
Sargent: Every year it is pretty competitive and hopefully this year we’ll be in the fight. We haven’t played particularly well there, but last year we were only three shots out of third place even though we finished ninth. I think this is the first time we have taken a team to the ACCs that really has the ability to win since I’ve been here.
The team has been impressive in tournament play this year and has finished ahead of ACC competition on numerous occasions. How does that play into this weekend?
Sargent: This is an older team that has a lot of experience and they have a lot of tournament golf under their belts. They know the situation they are going into, most of them have played the course so they should feel real comfortable there. They have a lot of positive experiences behind them over the course of this season. They should feel very confident going into this tournament.
Sophomore Ben Kohles, who cracked the top-10 mark in the national rankings earlier this year, is a candidate for ACC golfer of the year, but he is coming off his worst outing of the season at the Wolfpack Intercollegiate where he was 51st. How do you see him responding to that?
Sargent: Going into our last tournament he was certainly one of three people being considered for the ACC player of the year. I don’t know how much that tournament hurt him. I know it didn’t help him. He should have a lot of motivation this week. Between he and Brenden Gielow (Wake Forest) and J.T. Griffin (Georgia Tech), if one of those three should win this week, they will probably be the conference player of the year.
How does the Old North State Club, site of the ACC Championships, suit this team?
Sargent: Historically, we have not played it all that well. It is a course that you have to shoot a lot under. I don’t know that that is our style. Historically, at the tournaments we’ve played well, we tend to play well on courses where par is a good score. Much like regionals have been over the last few years. We have three kids in the lineup who have played there a lot and know the course and they should be comfortable there. It is a Fazio design and we have certainly played a number of courses he has designed. They are not too complicated. For whatever reason we have not played all that well there. This year, I’m hoping we break that trend.
Freshman Mac McLaughlin joins the lineup for the ACCs through your qualifying. How has he been playing of late?
Sargent: We took him to the River Landing tournament and, outside of nine holes, he played particularly well. He probably played as good as anybody for 45 holes. The last two days of the tournament he shot 68-72 and then last weekend he shoots 69- 75 at the tournament he won (Greene Hills Invitational). If you look at the last two or three weeks for him, he has played exceptionally well. He has worked very hard this semester and his game has taken off.
You host the Cavalier Classic in two weeks at Birdwood Gold Course. What are you looking forward to at that tournament?
Sargent: It gives us a good chance to win heading into regionals. This team hasn’t won yet this season. That is atypical of our teams over the last three or four years. We’ve almost averaged two wins a year over that time. I’m hoping one of them will come this week and then again next week at the Cav Classic. Winning is something that breeds a lot of confidence and I’ve seen how it has impacted our team over the last couple of years. I think these next two tournaments are very important for us heading into regionals in terms of gaining that extra little bit of confidence through potentially a win.
Due to the timing of the schedule, you’ll play the Cavalier Classic on the same date as the Kentucky Derby. That’s event you usually try to attend.
Sargent: Yeah, no Derby this year. I’ve probably been 10 times. I was a little disappointed when I looked at our dates and saw our tournament fell during Derby Week. That’s usually a good time for me to spend some time with my family – my parents and sister and brother. But if we can hoist that trophy up that Sunday, it will be worth it. Hopefully we can accomplish that.