A Shocking Season-Ender From Beans
Those who know Beans Kelly realize there's only one thing you can expect from her , the unexpected. On April 1 each year, you'd better be watching your back. Come Oct. 31, there's no telling what costume she may don to spread the Halloween spirit.
Therefore, the Lady Bulldogs were not surprised when their coach told them to grab some carts and join her on the 13th green of the University of Georgia Golf Course for a team meeting on Monday, May 15 last spring. "I thought it was some motivational speech about nationals or something," senior Shannon Ogg said.
That was the easy bet, considering Georgia finished a disappointing ninth at the NCAA East Regional the previous weekend. When the Lady Bulldogs arrived at the picturesque par-3 which overlooks a lake, however, they received news none of them could have expected. Kelly, their ultra-successful coach, informed her players she had resigned earlier that morning.
"It's time. My life will have a lot of chapters to it," Kelly said later in a press release. "This is like closing one chapter and moving on to the next. I've always been a 'heart' person, and this is what my heart is telling me to do. Is there ever a perfect time to leave? Probably not. But I know this is the right time for me. I have always believed that you have to have a passion and drive to do the best you possibly can in any endeavor. I still love what I'm doing, but I know that the passion isn't there as much as it once was. I want to go out on top." And her golfers wanted nothing more than for Kelly to do so. They traveled to Sunriver Oregon's Crosswater Golf Club with one goal in mind , providing their friend and mentor with a memorable send-off. Georgia played inspired during the first three days of play before a disappointing closing.
Sparked by Angela Jerman's opening-round 1-under 71, the Lady Bulldogs shot 296 and stood second and just one shot off the lead following the first day of play.
Adverse afternoon weather plagued Georgia during the second round. With wind chills dipping into the 40s and regular gusts of 20-25 miles per hour, the Lady Bulldogs carded a 303. Georgia stood fourth following the round; however, Arizona, playing under calmer conditions in the morning, carded a 285 to build a 12-stroke lead over the field. Individually, Laura Henderson posted one of only two under-par rounds during the afternoon, a 71, to vault to fourth in the individual standings. "I just took it one shot at a time," Henderson said. "You have to put the meaning in ╬one shot at a time.' I was concentrating on hitting the fairway and then thinking about the next shot. With the wind gusting up and how cold it was, I was just trying to stay as solid as I could." The Lady Dogs put together their most complete round on the third day of competition. Henderson, Ogg and Shauna Estes all recorded even-par tallies as Georgia shot 296. Ogg, Georgia's last golfer on the course, drained a 15-foot birdie putt on No. 18 which moved Georgia into a tie for third.
"We were one round away from posting a really great score," Kelly said. "I think it's going to be a heck of a race for second. We didn't come out here looking for that, but how many teams can say they finished second in the nation?"
Those hopes dissipated quickly as treacherous weather again wreaked havoc on the Lady Bulldogs. Georgia entered the final day with a three-day cumulative score of 31-over. The Lady Bulldogs shot 28-over in the fourth round alone and slipped to seventh place.
"What can I say? It was a tough day at Black Rock," Kelly said. "That's golf, though. We've got to take it. We put the numbers up there. It's unfortunate we couldn't go out with a bang, but what can you say about this game? You cruise for three days and then you have one bad one and it feels like the bottom dropped out. I'm proud of them. They tried on every shot and never gave up."
Despite shooting her tournament-high, a 79, Henderson still tied for seventh place individually.
"I'm excited about how I played the first three days," Henderson said. "I can't be mad about how I played today. The conditions were tough. The putts didn't fall today and it didn't go exactly where I wanted it to go. The wind was really hard. It rained off and on for about 12 holes. It just didn't feel as comfortable out there as it did the last three days." Estes and Ogg, Georgia's two seniors, picked up additional hardware while in Oregon.
Estes was named first-team All-America by the National Golf Coaches Association. Already the first Lady Bulldog to earn three All-America certificates, Estes capped her collegiate career with a third first-team honor. She was tabbed second team in 1998.
Ogg, a May finance graduate from UGA with a 3.90 cumulative GPA, was named to the second-team Academic All-America for all women's spring sports by GTE/CoSIDA.
While the final round wasn't the going away present the Lady Dogs hoped to supply Kelly, they did take solace in a strong season. Playing with only five healthy golfers the entire season ÷ essentially the bare minimum to field a team ÷ Georgia still won two tourneys. The effort in Oregon marked Georgia's third straight Top-10 NCAA finish. Equally importantly, the Lady Bulldogs' top-eight effort at the NCAAs qualified them for several of the nation's top events during the 2000-01 campaign when the next era of Georgia women's golf begins.