ABAC golf earns multiple academic awards

ABAC’s Hagen Marion judges putting angle and distance at the 2022 Stallion Invitational.

TIFTON — When Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College’s golf team sets out to do something, they do it well. Head coach Larry Byrnes’ Stallions annually appear in the NJCAA nationals and, in 2022, they placed high in a second type of competition.

ABAC golf finished third nationally for highest grade-point average. The Stallions’ GPA averaged at a 3.68, three hundredths of a point behind Odessa (Tex.) College, the NJCAA’s leader at 3.71. Andrew College, a short trip up the road to Cuthbert, was in between at 3.70. Academic teams are recognized in each NJCAA sport.

That news was more than welcome to Byrnes. “I’ll take what we have every day of the week,” he said. “Scholastics and good young men. It’s incredible to me.”

Six members of the roster made the All-Academic teams. Hagen Marion earned first team honors, Byrnes adding that his GPA was 4.0 for the second consecutive year. Kole Williams merited second team, with Brock Barber, Gabe Lewis, Ben Sanders and Steven Wood all making third team.

Only those with a 4.0 GPA made first team All-Academic, according to the NJCAA. Those on the list for second team scored between 3.80-3.99 and third team was in the range of 3.60-3.79.

For Barber, the academic award goes along with the All-American honors he earned at the NJCAA national tournament in May.

Byrnes said he is extremely proud of their achievements. “I don’t think people realize the effort it takes to be a college athlete,” he said, “going to school and keeping the grades up.”

That NJCAA honor is not the only one ABAC golf has received lately. The Golf Coaches Association of America named the Stallions their 2021-22 Academic National Champions for NJCAA Division II. Andrew earned the honors in NJCAA Division I. In the 2021-22 Srixon/Cleveland Golf All-America Scholars lists Barber and Marion as individual winners. Seventeen NJCAA players were named overall, coming only from eight schools.

Lewis has continued racking up achievements during the summer. “He was accepted into Marine Officers Candidates school,” said Byrnes, who had the honor of writing the letter of recommendation.

Byrnes makes sure the bar is set high. He has academic standards for his roster, though next year’s group has a task and a half ahead of them to match what the 2022 roster achieved. “They’ve done it well and also competed at a high level,” he said.

All five national tournament players will be returning in 2023, he said. That will allow the incoming recruits — a strong group, he said — to get acclimated to college athletics and academics. Byrnes has also had the luxury of having a former player stay on as an assistant coach for his team, which adds an extra layer for new players transitioning.

“A win-win situation for me,” he said. Lewis will be the assistant for 2022-23.

ABAC has even more good news for next season. The Stallion Invitational will return to Spring Hill Country Club, set for Feb. 26-28.

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