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Augusta State's champion golfers displeased with Georgia Regents decision

Staff Writer
NATE BILLINGS/THE OKLAHOMAN/FILE
The Augusta State men's golf team assistant coach Kevin McPherson (clockwise from left), Carter Newman, head coach Josh Gregory, Henrik Norlander, Olle Bengtsson, Mitchell Krywulyc and Patrick Reed posed for a photo with the championship trophy after the team match final of the NCAA Division I Men's Golf Championship in 2011. Newman, Jake Amos, Krywulycz and Norlander are upset over the change to Georgia Regents University.
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Carter Newman and his former Jaguars teammates who helped lead Augusta State to back-to-back national golf championships say their legacy is about to be erased.

When the University System of Georgia Board of Regents selected Georgia Regents University for the consolidated Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities, the body disregarded the rich Jaguars golf tradition by omitting the word “Augusta,” Newman said.

“I’m so mad about it because we feel that the history is erased,” he said. “It’s just a shame to take the name ‘Augusta’ out. They could’ve named it ‘Wal-Mart Augusta University,’ and I’d be OK with it.

“I didn’t really think they were going to name it Georgia Regents. I didn’t think it would be anything without Augusta in it. Honestly, it’s heartbreaking.”

Newman is not alone in his dissatisfaction. Former Jaguars golfers Jake Amos, Mitch Krywulycz and Henrik Norlander – all members of Augusta State’s national championship run – are also upset over the name change.

European Tour golfer Oliver Wilson, a three-time All-American for Augusta State, tweeted his disapproval.

“Is it true that Augusta State University is being renamed to Georgia Regents Uni?” Wilson wrote. “I really hope not; sounds awful.”

Norlander, who left the school with the lowest four-year scoring average, shared Wilson’s sentiment.

“No one I’ve talked to has said, ‘Yeah, this is a good name.’ It’s disappointing,” he said. “I can imagine how the employees feel, but they can’t say anything.”

Golf began at Augusta State in the late 1950s. The program became synonymous with premier golf, and its location mere miles from Augusta National Golf Club helped in recruiting. In 2010 and 2011, the Jaguars cemented their legacy as an elite golf program, winning back-to-back NCAA Division I national championships – a feat no school had accomplished since the 1980s.

Now the name in the record books will change to Georgia Regents. That’s tough to swallow for the golfers, who also are losing the ‘A’ logo, seen on hats, shirts and golf bags throughout the area. Amos, a senior on the 2010 team who now plays professionally, said he has the logo on his golf bag and doesn’t plan on changing to a Georgia Regents bag.

The Englishman said golf coach Kevin McPherson will have a more difficult time recruiting international players. He’ll have to explain what happened to Augusta State and why it fell out of the rankings. Then he’ll have to explain the school’s new name.

“He’s going to have to recruit with the old name, because people aren’t going to know Georgia Regents,” he said.

When Amos was 17, he received 15 to 20 recruiting e-mails from schools including Arizona, Virginia and Augusta State. The only one he responded to: Augusta State. He knew where Augusta was, and he knew all about the Masters Tournament.

“With Augusta in the name, you’ve got that lure as a golfer,” Amos said. “Georgia Regents is so uninspirational, it’s unbelievable. I don’t think academics will change much. From a sports perspective, it’s disastrous.”

For Krywulycz, the difficult part to accept is how the process worked with the Board of Regents. He said when he attended Augusta State, students were told what they did mattered.

“At the end of the day, this nullifies that. With the naming process, you feel like you’ve been lied to,” he said. “I think it’s embarrassing it’s going to be changed to GRU. It’s something that was done behind our backs.

“I don’t expect them to care about athletics, and obviously they don’t. If they cared about athletics, they wouldn’t have chosen that name. They’re going to lose so many recruits because of Georgia Regents. It sounds like you play for an online school.”

For Newman, who drained three of the biggest putts in Augusta State history during his 2011 national semifinal match against Oklahoma State, representing Augusta carried a lot of weight. He said GHSU president Ricardo Azziz doesn’t fully understand the sentiments of the many golfers who have played for the Jaguars.

“This guy we don’t know anything about merges the university and wipes out the name Augusta. It’s frustrating,” said Newman, who grew up in Evans. “I’ve always held Augusta close to my heart. This guy, Azziz, doesn’t realize what it means to me.”

Krywulycz hopes Georgia Regents doesn’t stick. In­stead, he’d prefer the school to be renamed the University of Augusta.

“I think that’s a great name for the university,” he said. “I really hope it works out.”

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