“This is one of the most special teams we’ve had.”
Those were the words of Georgia men’s golf coach Chris Haack on Sunday after the Bulldogs won the SEC championship and boasted the league medalist in Russell Henley, a Macon native.
“This is a feeling that never gets old,” said Haack, clutching the SEC trophy. “This team has had its struggles this year, but they have grown up and they have grown together. I could not be prouder of this group. No matter what happens the rest of the way, this team will always have a special place in my heart.”
Playing on Sea Island’s Seaside Course, the Bulldogs finished at 4-over-par 844 for a five-shot victory over Florida and Ole Miss. The SEC title was the 28th in school history and the seventh in Haack’s 14-year tenure. Georgia has dominated the 2000s, claiming six titles.
Henley, a junior and Stratford product, became the 15th SEC medalist in school history, but he had to work overtime to do it. Henley and South Carolina’s George Bryan IV finished 72 holes tied at 6-under 204. To break the tie, Henley and Bryan returned to No. 18. After each made par, they played No. 18 again. This time, Henley sunk a 10-foot birdie putt to clinch the victory.
“I told him going out there the second time, ‘I’ve walked 20 holes with you today, so you better end it here because I’m not sure I can keep going,’” Haack said with a laugh. “Russell played so well today. He kept us in it the whole time. Being out there with him today was so much fun.”
Henley – who won with former SEC champs and ex-Bulldogs David Boyd (1962) and Bryant Odom (2001) looking on – said having the pressure of the team competition off his back helped him when he played the extra two holes.
“The main thing was I wanted our team to win – and we’d already done that,” Henley said. “So after that, I was pretty relaxed. I was already so happy about the team, so being the medalist was just icing on the cake.”
Henley shot his second straight 3-under 67 on Sunday to lead the Bulldogs to a final-round 4-over 284. Junior Harris English added a 1-under 69, followed by freshman Bryden Macpherson at 1-over 71, redshirt freshman T.J. Mitchell at 7-over 77 and junior Rob Bennett at 9-over 79.