The NCAA’s Southeast Regional this week at Red Tail Golf Club in Sorrento, Fla., will have a strong Macon feel.
Former Stratford standout Russell Henley and FPD product Taylor Floyd will be among the field at the regional that will run Thursday-Saturday. Henley is a sophomore at Georgia, while Floyd is competing in his freshman season at Augusta State.
The field will also include Mercer’s Bill Jones III.
“We just keep going up the ladder playing against each other,” Floyd said. “We played against each other in high school, and now we’re playing against each other in college. It’s definitely going to be a lot of fun.”
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Henley and Floyd played in the same tournament once before this season: the Brickyard Collegiate at The Brickyard at Riverside in October. Henley finished ninth, and Floyd finished tied for 34th.
Both players have won a tournament this season.
“I’m really excited because I haven’t seen Taylor in a while,” Henley said. “I know he won a tournament, and that’s pretty big to win in your freshman year. Hopefully, we’ll be paired together and get to play together. That would be fun.
“I’m looking forward to seeing him.”
Both players are looking forward to helping their teams to a good finish this week.
Eighty-one teams will compete in six regionals. The top five teams from each regional will make up the 30-team field for the NCAA championship, which will be played May 26-30 at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio.
Georgia is making its 20th appearance since the NCAA went to the regional format for the 1989 season, and the Bulldogs earned one of the six No. 1 seeds for the regionals. The other five are Clemson, Stanford, Southern California, Washington and Oklahoma State.
The tournament was changed this year from six regionals to three.
“We’re feeling really confident,” Henley said of the Bulldogs. “We’re playing pretty well, and we feel good about where we are as a team and our chances to get to the nationals. Most of us grew up on Bermuda greens, and that’s what they have there, so that should help us.
“But it’s a little nerve-wracking to know you have to finish in the fop five. That adds a little pressure for us.”
Floyd said his win earlier this season has taken some pressure off him. He finished at 14 under to win the Augusta State Invitational by four shots in early April.
Floyd returned to Macon this past week to work with Idle Hour Club’s Ray Cutright before the regional.
Augusta State is making its 11th regional appearance in the past 12 years.
“It definitely makes things easier going to other tournaments having won one,” Floyd said. “That was one of my goals this year, to win a tournament, and that eases up the pressure on you knowing you can do it and you know what it takes to win.”
Henley certainly knows what it takes to win at a high level.
He was the co-medalist at the NCAA East Regional last year and has helped Georgia win five times this season. One of those tournament victories came at the Isleworth Invitational and was sparked by Henley’s victory in the individual tournament with a 4-under finish.
“It’s great knowing I’ve been there before and faced these types of situations before,” Henley said. “I’ve been learning a lot about myself this year, and mentally, I have improved so much. There are always things to work on, but I have grown up a lot this year and really improved my game.”