Brunswick High and Frederica Academy’s golf teams went head to head in a nine-hole match on Wednesday at Retreat Golf Course as both the girls and boys battled it out on the links.Both groups have played quite a few nine-hole matches so far this season to get more experience on the course, as Frederica coach Tom Willis and Brunswick coach Drew Culpepper both said these matches allow them to assess their golfers while testing them.“It’s great to be able to play with Brunswick High because they’re local. We don’t have to travel, and they don’t have to travel, so having them right here is a big advantage,” Willis said. “We want to do that kind of thing as much as we can. It’s also a way to add events to your schedule and make it so more kids can play.
“You want those kids who are maybe past your number five spot on your team — you need them to be able to compete, so they can improve and get tournament experience and that sort of thing. It’s really good to have ways to do that, so these nine-hole matches are one way to do that.”Culpepper said they take their results, so they know what to work on in practice and improve.“So these matches allow us to assess our game against good competition,” Culpepper said. “They’re great for us because it often exposes our players’ weaknesses, and it teaches the players how to handle themselves on a course, and it gets them prepared for the 18 hole tournaments.”The Pirates have a weekly circuit match with Wayne, Glynn Academy, Ware and Brantley County.“It allows the players to play different types of courses that require different types of shots to the greens and off the tee boxes,” Culpepper said. “The players love playing in them, so it’s just a great opportunity.”Willis said these events give his B-team players, who may not play a lot of tournament golf, the chance to get out there and grind, forcing them to be uncomfortable and not in a relaxed practice environment.“A lot of them don’t have as much experience as those top players, so they’re able to get out there and grind — get in a competitive environment instead of our practice days when they’re just playing with their friends,” Willis said. “They have to worry more about the rules, signing the cards, and thinking about how to compete and score. I keep their averages too for the season, so they think about that. They have to keep grinding and competing, no matter how bad it gets.”Making them grind out challenging situations only makes them better in the long run, and both Willis and Culpepper said the more matches they can play, the better.“It shows what they need to be working on and shows us coaches what they need to be working on,” Culpepper said. “It allows us to go back to practice and in turn those weaknesses into strengths, and that’s the main thing about it for us, it gives them it gives them some tournament-like experience without having to play in a full tournament.”
The coaches can also see how they handle the pressure and nerves of a golf tournament while keeping it smaller. Culpepper said when his team plays against good competition — they step up to the challenge.“When you play against good competition, our players often play up to that competition — they seem to play better,” Culpepper said. “They’ve stepped up to the occasion and play well.”Culpepper said they base their team goals on these matches, and so far, the goals they set for the team, they continue to meet.“We have a bunch of team goals based on the results of these matches, and we have numbers that we are trying to shoot,” Culpepper said. “Every week, we keep lowering that number, and the guys keep rising to the occasion and making that goal. It’s just a good assessment for our game, and we love doing them.”For Willis, he knows nerves are something he cannot simulate in practice, which is why he enjoys letting his golfers play in these. The tougher the situations they can play in, the better and Willis said it only makes them sharper.“So it’s a whole different experience. You have to get used to playing tournament golf,” Willis said. “I’ve seen a lot of kids that are great on their own and great practice players, and then they get to tournament and have a rough time, but that’s part of it. After they play in a whole bunch of them, they get better at it.“I have some kids that get nervous when they’re competing, and it’s hard to simulate that. In my practices, I do as much contests and that sort of thing as possible. We will have inner squad matches and things to put pressure on the kids, but there’s nothing like the pressure you’ll get from an actual event where the score is going down in the books. That makes you mentally sharper.”Another thing he notices is that these matches help golfers continue to improve. With an A-team and a B-team, it’s hard for golfers to move up the lineup, so having these allows the whole B-team to get better.“All of those kids on my B team that was out there against Brunswick have come along,” Willis said. “It’s just the team is so strong, it’s hard to get a spot and move up, but they’re all capable. I’ve seen all of them improve. Sometimes you don’t see the improvement so much in their score, as in their swing and technique. Usually, when you see improvements in technique, you’ll see the scores come pretty soon.”These nine-hole matches allow the high school teams to get in reps on golf courses, so when they take on an 18 hole tournament, they can mentally stick it out and produce good scores. It’s all about getting experience since both teams have talented golfers.Both Brunswick and Frederica Academy will take on each other again Thursday at Brunswick Country Club for another match on a different course to give them another challenge.