The success Karim Muhammed has in the Macon-Middle Georgia Golf Championship this year doesn’t have much immediate impact. But the long-term effect is what Muhammed is looking forward to most.
In the opening round of the tournament Saturday at the Brickyard at Riverside, Muhammed shot a 76.
Consecutive bogeys put him at 6 over after eight holes, and entering his final three holes, Muhammed was at 4 over.
“I was 6 over going into the ninth hole,” he said. “I needed to get back to 4 over.”
One of the players in his group helped coach him out of the funk he was in. He was frustrated and almost let the game get away from him.
“I went for it on nine and and chipped an eagle on nine,” he said. “And that put me back at 4 over, which is where I wanted to be.”
It’s a moment like that, Muhammed will take back with him to show his resilience at being able to refocus and play his game.
At 21 years old, Muhammed has just finished his first year at LeMoyne-Owen, where he redshirted for the golf team. He was hoping to stay closer to Macon and was potentially going to commit to Morehouse. That fell through after he wasn’t offered as much scholarship money — both academic and athletic — as he was hoping. Next on his list was Darton State in Albany. That fell through, as well. If it weren’t for a personal connection with the LeMoyne-Owen program, Muhammed doesn’t know where he would be playing.
“I had a friend there that was really good; he was their No. 1 player,” Muhammed said. “I went up, met the coach, fell in love with school and fell in love with the environment. That was probably one of the best decisions I have made.”
And that is how he landed at LeMoyne-Owen. But there was more than just the campus that took him there for golf.
Muhammed got involved with golf at a young age. He said his grandmother had a friend that was involved in junior golf clinics. From that moment, he was hooked. He began working with John Crawford, and his golfing career was born.
Muhammed was home-schooled so he didn’t play on a high school team; he always has played as an individual. He remembers the final junior tournament he played in 2014.
“I was really pressured, trying to find out where I was going to go to school and if I was going to be able to get a scholarship,” he said.
After having a strong first day and a rough second day, he ended up winning the tournament by two strokes.
“It felt good, it boosted my confidence,” he said. “It let me know that even though I wasn’t playing as good as I know I could have, I still was good enough to beat the rest of the guys.”
It’s a fond memory Muhammed said he will cherish and think back to when things aren’t going well for him. But Muhammed’s goal isn’t to necessarily win the tournament. His challenge now is to prove once again to himself how capable he is at bouncing back when things go awry.
“The thing that differentiates good players from great players is that if they have a bad hole, they aren’t going to dwell on it,” he said. “They are going to make a comeback and keep their round.”
Three-time defending champion Stan Gann shot a 69 as he tries to become the first player to win the tournament four straight years. He has a one-shot lead over Conner Albright.