When the Texas A&M men’s golf team tees off in Fayetteville, Arkansas on Monday, Oct. 5, it will mark a long-awaited return to competition after the 2019-2020 season was cut short this spring due to COVID-19.
All eyes will be on the Aggies as they compete against the rest of the SEC in Fayetteville on Oct. 5-7 in The Blessings Collegiate Invitational. The tournament will air on the Golf Channel and marks the first of three tournaments for the men’s team this season.
With Vanderbilt and Alabama hosting the second and third tournaments in October and November respectively, it’s a rapid start for a team that hasn’t played since March.
“It’s been a long break since we’ve been out together as a team,” interim head men’s golf coach Brian Kortan said. “It’ll be good to get back into the routines of competing on the road together.”
Kortan took over the men’s golf program this year following the departure of longtime coach J.T. Higgins. Kortan said he expects his team to be ready to go even with the extra-long offseason due to the pandemic.
All-American and returning senior Walker Lee said he’s not worried about the time off since the team last competed.
“It really hasn’t affected me much at all,” Lee said. “I play golf a lot obviously, but it doesn’t really define me. I feel like I’m really good at being able to take a break from the game.”
As with many fall sporting events, there will be additional safety protocols including no fans in attendance, per 12thman.com.
“It will have a little different feel to it,” Kortan said. “Obviously there will be some [COVID-19] protocols, but hopefully when we get on the course we put all that behind us and concentrate on what we went there to do.”
That concentration will be key, as the playing format for this tournament is team-based rather than individual, meaning the team will play with one another rather than with an athlete from another university.
“I think we all get along really well, so at least for us it will be good,” sophomore William Paysse said. “It’s just kind of playing with your friends.”
Paysse is one of three All-Americans who look to lead the Aggie squad to a strong start at a tough course. He said he watched the National Championship there, including matchplay, two years ago during his redshirt season.
“I’m glad that I have seen it before,” Paysse said. “I can remember most of the holes out there so that’s always helpful for a tournament if you have at least seen the layout and some of the green complexes.”
A new season is beginning so the focus is set, Kortan said.
“If we keep doing the right things on and off the golf course and maturing, the scores and competition and results will follow,” Kortan said.