Q&A with Bowen Sargent (April 20)
The Virginia men’s golf team heads to the Old North State Club at Uwharrie Point in New London, N.C. for the ACC Championships starting Friday. The Cavaliers placed second last season behind Georgia Tech, the third time in UVa’s history to post a runner-up finish. Senior Will Collins was second overall in the individual competition. UVa head coach Bowen Sargent talks about the upcoming event.
Question: This is the 10th consecutive year the ACC Championship has been contested at the Old North State Club. Do you feel there is any advantage for anyone playing on a familiar course?
Sargent: Will Collins’ last five rounds there have probably been as good as anybody in the conference. He finished second there last year (69-68-71) and as a sophomore the last two rounds (66 & 70) he played awfully well after shooting 83 the first day. I think the course sets up well for him. Ben Kohles, his game seems to travel well no matter where he plays. Being back in North Carolina is something special for Ben and also Bruce Woodall.
Question: Kohles missed the team’s last tournament to rest a sore back. Will he be back in the lineup and ready for the ACCs?
Sargent: I hope so. He knows the magnitude of this tournament and what it means to our program. He has been working hard back here at home. You are always a little concerned about getting your competitive rhythm and timing back. He could be a hair rusty. I think the first nine holes will be a determining factor on how well he plays. If he feels comfortable that first nine holes, he’ll ride that momentum. He definitely knows how to play. He knows what to do. It is just a matter of getting that good feel and good rhythm and timing. If he does that he will be fine.
Question: Kohles has won two tournaments this season and having an All-American type of season. Is there anything different with his game from a year ago?
Sargent: This year he has gotten bigger and stronger. He has put on a little weight and as a result he has probably picked up 15 yards on his drives. He has put himself into a position where he can hit shorter irons like Will and Amory (Davis) have had the opportunity to do. As he continues to get bigger and stronger and hit it further he can approach the green with shorter irons. His game only gets better as he gets closer to the hole. I think that’s been the biggest difference for him this year.
Question: How important will it be for someone to step up and do something special during the tournament?
Sargent: Any time you are going to win a tournament, that has to be the case. Certainly here, with a smaller field, you have to have five guys that are competing in the top 15 in order to win. It is no secret on this course you have to shoot low scores and you have to play well. It is probably going to take 20 to 25 under as a team to win. When you are doing that you cannot afford to count a 73 or 74. You need to have four guys every day under par. A big part of that is having someone step up and play a little better than they are supposed to on paper.
Question: Will Georgia Tech be the favorites to repeat as team champions?
Sargent: No doubt. Since the tournament has been at this golf course they have probably won it four or five times. They play this course particularly well. It is very similar to The Golf Course of Georgia, which is where they play their golf in Atlanta. It is no secret that they are the team to beat. They have five guys that are strong. We’ll have to play well to beat them. The last time I looked at the rankings there were probably eight teams in the top 40 or 45, so you know somebody out of there is going to play well. Teams like Duke, Wake, NC State, Clemson and us are all good teams and could win on a given weekend.
Question: The team played six tournaments in less than two months this spring. Was that particularly demanding on the players?
Sargent: The trip to Hawaii started the season two weeks early for us, so that was an additional date we haven’t had in the past. Yes, I would say the guys have seemed like they were a little tired down the stretch. At least more tired than in years past. Now that we’ve had a little down time for a couple of weeks, they have looked in practice like they have a little more energy about them. I am looking forward to the practice round at the ACCs to see how that plays out. It was a welcome rest on everybody’s part.