College of Coastal Georgia senior golfer Taylor Guilbeau had just six starts last season, averaging just over 77 strokes per round and finished last season’s CCGA Winter Invitational tied for sixth place.
Guilbeau didn’t qualify for Coastal Georgia’s A Team, comprised of the top five Mariners based on the scores of seven preseason practice rounds.
Considering the uphill climb, Guilbeau emerged as an unlikely 2017 Winter Invitational champion, but his win was decisive. Guilbeau’s 145 two-day cumulative total was two strokes ahead of teammate Paxton Shuman and St. Andrews’ Daniel Wieck.
Guilbeau’s win wasn’t the only highlight for the Mariners, who won the tournament outright. The Mariner A team totaled a two-day score of 601, edging out University of North Georgia by one stroke.
“Yesterday I finished OK with a bunch of pars,” Guilbeau said. “Throughout the round, it was just making a bunch of par putts.”
Guilbeau’s first win also offers him the opportunity to establish consistency in the regular lineup. Head coach Mike Cook said he is reserving a starting spot for players who win a tournament during the season.
“If they get a win, they don’t have to qualify for the rest of the semester,” Cook said. “That’s the incentive we give them. If you win a tournament, you’ve earned it.”
The Mariner’s ineligible B team led the tournament after the first day, and the tournament champion was a member of the B team, so all signs point to the No. 7-ranked Mariners packing plenty of depth up and down the lineup this season.
“The best thing to do is think about it as a team thing, instead of worrying about yourself,” Guilbeau said. “I think all of our players are equally capable.”
Cook said he can lean on almost all of his golfers to consistently shoot scores in the mid to low 70s, but he’s trying to find a reliable player who can separate himself as a consistent low scorer that limits bogeys and piles birdies down the stretch.
“The 306 (Monday) was not what we were capable of shooting,” Cook said. “If we shoot 290 on an average day, I’ll take it. … But a win is a win but we have to play better moving forward toward nationals.”
It’s the fourth-straight year the Mariners have won their winter home tournament and the second team win this year for the Mariners, who also won the Fall Invitational in September. The Winter Invite kicks off the winter-spring season for NAIA golf. The Mariners will be off until that play tournaments in South Carolina and Mississippi in March.
The Coastal Georgia Lady Mariners hosted their Winter Invitational at King and Prince Golf Course, posting a two-day score of 678, good enough for eighth place in the home tournament. SCAD Atlanta won the women’s event with a team total of 641.
Niquole Mangal turned in an 80 in his second round after a 79 on Day 1 to finish tied for sixth place. She was nine shots behind the tournament winner Lydia Randell of St. Andrews.
The Lady Mariners will play next in Lake Wales, Fla., on March 4 and 5 as they continue their 2017 campaign.