If you’ve ever driven on Hood Road, you probably remember that you felt like you were in the middle of nowhere.
The Georgia Southern University golf facility is located about ten minutes away from the campus and on one of the deepest dirt roads I’ve ever seen. The dips in the road make it feel like you’re on a rollercoaster, and the trees easily blind your sight of your surroundings.
When you ride on this road for a few minutes, you see the beautiful facility on the left hand side. It is a little Southern oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the college town.
The Howard House sits in front of a perfectly manicured golf course. It is home to the GS golf team and houses the many accolades of the program.
In Head Coach Carter Collins’ sixth season as leader, the program has appeared in the NCAA Championship Finals and made several Sun Belt Championship finishes. He has brought in two Sun Belt Coach of the Year honors, and several Eagles have been named to All-Sun Belt teams.
One of those Eagles helping to leave a dent in the record books is senior Jake Maples.
When Maples was sitting in his dorm room at Central Alabama Community College, he knew his future was bright. Though he was not recruited out of high school, he knew his skills were there. After two years of hard work, Maples made his way up to be the No. 8 golfer in the nation at the junior college level.
Collins began to reach out to him and show interest. Maples signed his way into Eagle Nation in 2018 and has made Statesboro his home ever since. He’s come a long way since his junior college days, and this week, he will play against some of the best golfers from around the country in the Schenkel Invitational.
His resume is pretty impressive, as he has had several top five finishes in the past few months.
Maples is an only child and began golfing for fun as a freshman in high school. His mild mannered temperament fits the sport perfectly and he has grown to appreciate having patience.
When he began to seriously pick up a club and look at golf as a competitive sport, he had just given up playing baseball due to multiple stress fractures in his elbow, and was looking for another way to stay active.
He enjoys the sport because it is individualized and he can instantly see the fruits of his labor.
“Even though it’s a team sport, it’s all on you,” Maples said, “There’s really nothing that anybody else can do to affect your game except for yourself. I kind of like having the pressure on me.”
As a management major, Maples considers himself to be very analytical. He takes notes from many professional golfers and likes to see the way that they make decisions during crunch time.
Since golf is not really a sport that is often looked at by the average fan at the junior college level, he is grateful that Collins extended him the opportunity to come to the Division I level. There are only about 171 junior college men’s golf programs nationwide and each school offers about five scholarships.
“Coach Collins is doing an awesome job of improving everybody,” Maples said. “Our goals have aligned and for me and Brett, we’re just trying to prolong it. So, the better we play, the more tournaments we keep getting to play.”
Now that he has seen some of his own teammates go pro, Steven Fisk, he plans to do the same thing. He believes that if he keeps learning and growing, he has a shot.
“My plan is to turn professional,” he said. “I don’t really have a back up plan.”
Amanda Arnold, The George-Anne Managing Sports Editor, [email protected]