Georgia Southern star among favorites for Georgia Amateur Championship

Steven Fisk is one of the 144 players in this week’s Georgia Amateur Championship.
Steven Fisk is one of the 144 players in this week’s Georgia Amateur Championship. Georgia Southern

Steven Fisk put the rest of the state on notice last week that he’s ready to take a shot at winning the Georgia Amateur Championship.

Fisk, a junior at Georgia Southern, finished in a tie for third at the prestigious Dogwood Invitational at Druid Hills Golf Club. This week, Fisk is among the 144 players in the field for the 96th Georgia Amateur that will be held at the West Lake Country Club.

The GSGA’s signature event, a 72-hole competition, begins Thursday and concludes Sunday.

This year’s tournament is considered to be especially wide open. Defending champion Colin Bowles of Albany is not in the field because he has qualified for the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship. Dru Love, the 2015 winner, has turned pro. Spencer Ralston, a member of Georgia’s golf team and last year’s runner-up, is skipping the Georgia Amateur to play in another event.

The Middle Georgia contingent also includes: Wilson Andress, Andy Bacchus, Tre Lamb, Travis Steed and Coleman Tidwell Jr. from Macon; Stan Gann Jr. and Trey Odom from Warner Robins; and Brennan Bogdanovich and Justin Connelly from Mercer.

Fisk has been on an upward climb all season. It began a year ago when he was named the Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year and reached the round of 16 at the Georgia Amateur, which was contested under match play rules a year ago to celebrate the event’s centennial.

Fisk was Georgia Southern’s top player in 2016-17. He led the team in stroke average (71.5), had five top-10 finishes and won the Sun Belt championship. He competed in the NCAA Austin Regional and tied for 15th.

Gann, a veteran mid-amateur player, also bears watching. He came close to winning the 2014 Georgia Amateur before falling away on the final day. Gann won the 2016 Atlanta Amateur Match Play Championship.

West Lake will be hosting the championship for the third time. Griff Moody beat Allen Doyle by a shot there in 1980, and Jack Croyle won there in 2000 after getting the field as an alternate. Layne Williams, the GSGA’s senior director for rules and competitions, said West Lake is not a course that lends itself to a bomber’s mindset. It requires strategy and patience.

“You can try to bomb it off the tee, but if you get in those pine trees, they get deeper and deeper,” Williams said. “I like to say it’s a position golf course. You’ve got to work your way around it. It’s a player’s golf course.”

Past champions in the field will be two-time winners David Noll Jr. and Lee Knox and 2004 champion David Denham, the state’s reigning mid-am champion. Others who are exempt include 2016 GSGA Player of the year Chris Waters, Senior Player of the Year Doug Hanzel, 2017 Georgia Junior champion Brandon Cho and Gann and Atlanta Amateur Match Play Championship runner-up Kane Whitehurst.