Sports

Mercer’s Jones receives at-large bid

Bill Jones III had a pretty good weekend.

He and former Mercer teammate Ryan Blackburn made their Peach Blossom tournament and four-ball format debut, and won the tournament over a veteran field.

Monday was just a little bit better.

That’s when Jones found out that his college golf career would indeed continue when he was awarded an at-large bid to compete next week in the NCAA Regional golf tournament in Sorrento, Fla.

“That’s quite an understatement,” Jones said of the quality weekend and Monday’s news. “I was just trying to have fun in the tournament.”

He is the first Mercer golfer to qualify for a regional, and the first Mercer athlete or team to get an at-large NCAA bid since Deborah Jones did it two years ago in cross country.

Jones was one of five individuals to get a bid, joining players from South Alabama, North Carolina-Wilmington, UAB and Florida Atlantic.

Georgia, South Carolina, Florida State, Augusta State, Georgia Southern and Georgia State are among the 14 teams that will compete at the regional.

The process began a few weeks ago with an application.

While in the Peach Blossom, Mercer head coach Andrew Tredway told Jones that things looked better and better, adding to Jones’ focus at Idle Hour.

“We were hoping we could pull it off against that field,” he said. “Then, it was more like I was playing that (tournament) kind of as a preparation just in case.”

Jones credited Tredway with his berth. He said Tredway put together a comprehensive presentation for the NCAA.

Tentative at first, Jones got a shot of confidence after looking at what Tredway had discovered through research of how Jones fared against the nation’s top players as well as those also under consideration for the at-large spots.

“He did a really great job of putting together this PDF document of my whole year,” Jones said. “I knew I could go, but after looking at it, I really started thinking I kind of deserved to go.”

Jones had a final exam late Monday afternoon and was unable to watch an online news conference of the announcement.

“When I got out of my exam, I was kinda waiting,” Jones said, “anxiously waiting by the phone, not expecting the call to come.”

But a few minutes after the dinnertime announcement, Jones’ phone rang.

Advancing to the NCAAs continues a career year for Jones, who topped the scorecard of Mercer’s best year in men’s golf.

The Bears finished third in the A-Sun tournament, their best showing since 1992. Mercer finished fourth in the Linger Longer tournament, highlighting a quality spring.

Jones did his part, with five top-20 finishes and three in the top five. He finished second in the Linger Longer against elite competition that included Georgia and Oklahoma State. He was one stroke behind Oklahoma State’s Trent Whitekiller.

The native of Conyers also beat 11 of the nation’s top 100 en route to a share of fourth in the Rio Pinar Invitational, and took fifth in the A-Sun tournament.

And then came the Peach Blossom championship, and Monday’s phone call.

“I was extremely excited after that,” he said of the tournament win. “And then to get that call (Monday), it’s a pretty big high right now.”

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