On Southeastern Amateur week, Ben Carr’s Georgia Southern teammates flood his hometown of Columbus, Georgia. There are so many competing this week – six, counting him – that the Carrs can’t put them all up. But that’s part of what makes the week special for the 20-year-old team captain.
“I definitely star it on the calendar every year,” said Carr, who opened his sixth consecutive Southeastern with a 6-under 64 at Country Club of Columbus to land one off the lead.
Two years ago, Carr gave his people reason to linger. In the third round, he had posted 9-under 61 to set the scoring record at CC of Columbus. Even after holing out for an eagle on the second hole, Carr wasn’t thinking 61 until he reached 7 under on the 14th hole. He birdied No. 18 to beat his low competitive round by three shots.
Scores: Southeastern Amateur
With his brother Sackett, three years younger, on the bag, Carr took an eight-shot lead into the final round. He closed with 68 and ended up winning by 10 shots. It was a colossal breakthrough after a freshman season in which Carr had been the No. 2 scorer on a Georgia Southern team that reached the NCAA Championship for the first time since 2010. Golfstat named the Eagles’ freshman class the best in the country.
“Going into the rest of that summer, it just made me feel like I was a better player than I thought I was beforehand,” Carr said of his Southeastern title. “That’s huge in golf. I think you can ride confidence for months. I think I was able to do that that summer.”
Carr finished in the top 5 in his next three tournaments and qualified for the 2019 U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst. He has won two college events since, and ties those back to the Southeastern, too.
Every one of Carr’s teammates who teed it up in Columbus that week stuck around not for the golf, but for their guy. Carr’s father David, then 52, had passed away three months before the Southeastern Amateur. The win at home was going to be emotional. Carr remembers giving interviews after his 61 and not being able to finish them.
“There were definitely a lot of tears shed after the third round and after the final round,” he said.
David Carr introduced his son to golf at the Country Club of Columbus. Ben has pictures of himself playing there when he was as young as 4 even though his earliest memories begin at 7.
As a kid, his dad drove him to golf tournaments and, before that, coached his baseball and basketball teams. The results didn’t matter so much to his dad as the way you treated people and the way you carried yourself. So while winning at home would certainly have made his dad proud, Carr knows there’s more to it than that.
“I know he was definitely happy that I won but I think he’s a lot more proud of the way I did it and the way I went about … just proud of the way I carry myself,” Carr said. “At least I hope he was just throughout that week since it was fresh on my mind.”
In the weeks after his dad passed, Carr closed ranks with his mom and brother. Georgia Southern head coach Carter Collins watched Ben become a rock for Sackett – calling him after each round of golf. Sackett will be a freshman at the University of Georgia this fall.
“I can’t tell you how good of an older brother he is,” Collins said.
But Ben hours spent working through his grief in Collins’s office, too. Support came from the whole team, particularly senior Steven Fisk, with whom Carr had become especially close.
“I don’t know if I would have handled it as well as I did if not for people like Coach and Steven just being there for me throughout the entire thing,” Carr said.
Carr still played through that spring’s postseason, finishing seventh at the Sun Belt Conference Championship and 33rd in the NCAA Stanford Regional.
Georgia Southern finished 26th as a team at the NCAA Championship, with Fisk finishing runner-up to Matthew Wolff individually. Carr got a front-row seat – this after spending many nights on the road during his freshman year listening to Fisk dissect a round. Carr loved to soak in anything Fisk had to say about golf.
“I can think of five or six specific times (Steven) told me was going to win before the week started and he won,” Carr marveled. “Just being around somebody that has that level of confidence, it kind of transferred over.”
In addition to rooming together, the two practiced together frequently. Collins called Fisk’s influence a trampoline in Carr’s progression as a player. Fisk was a First-Team All-American who won a total of nine times at Georgia Southern. In the 2018-19 college golf season, he brought Georgia Southern to the forefront but the Eagles never really left. Carr is a big reason for that. After winning the Southeastern Amateur, his game kept spiraling upward. He was a captain this past season as a junior and plans two more years on the roster.
“I just don’t want to leave,” he said.
As captain, Carr tries to build up his teammates as much as possible. He’ll try to rally them if the team has played through a particularly tough stretch of tournaments.
“You always hear the phrase pay it forward,” Collins said. “All the mentorship and the leadership he has received from guys before him, he has paid it five times back already. So I’m really excited about what he can do for us from a leadership standpoint.”
Collins sees similarities between Carr and Fisk in the way both are able to compartmentalize success – how they put a situation behind them quickly and ready for the next one.
With Carr’s Southeastern Amateur win, Collins saw the start of a steady progression. Carr proved his talent to himself and to his peers.
“Ben became a lot tougher from that situation, not that he wasn’t tough before,” Collins said. “That really inspired him to be so good to others.”
It’s the thing that mattered most to David Carr.