If Jackson Wedgeworth has played his final tournament as a member of North Alabama’s men’s golf team, he certainly went out in style.
Wedgeworth won the Tiger Invitational presented by Jason Dufner hosted at Auburn University March 8-10, taking down some of the top college players in the country in the process.
Then, while playing some of the best golf of his life, the season went up in smoke when ruling bodies shut down spring sports in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Wedgeworth’s individual victory – the Lions as a team finished ninth in a 20-team field that featured six teams in the top 70 nationally – was dramatic. He was four shots behind with eight holes to play but roared back by playing those holes in 4-under-par to win by a shot over Auburn’s C.J. Easley.
“I was definitely happy to end it like that,” Wedgeworth said Wednesday while sitting on the porch at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at the Shoals clubhouse. “I guess that is the best way to end it. I would rather have that ending than say that first tournament of the spring. If that had been the last one, it would have been pretty tough.”
Wedgeworth was referencing his play at the Lions’ first spring event in California when he failed to break 80 in all three rounds, as a slump he said began late in the fall peaked.
“I started to kind of come out of it at Florida State, and then obviously at Auburn I got everything going,” he said.
Not only did Wedgeworth feel like he was hitting his stride, he was confident the Lions were on the brink of putting together a season-ending run they hoped would end with an ASUN championship.
“I was playing some of the best golf I have played in a long time right before this happened, so there are two sides to it,” he said. “I’m lucky I got that golf in, but at same time I still had three more tournaments left. I wasn’t planning on stopping after Auburn. I wanted to keep the pedal down and win a few more events while I could.”
As the team captain, Wedgeworth said the Lions were hitting their stride as well.
“We had some guys play better than they had in a few months,” he said. “To finish ninth at Auburn – it was the best field we played all year. For our second year in D-I, that’s pretty good, and we still didn’t play to the best of our ability. Our team best is yet to come.”
With spring sports shut down, that team best will have to wait until the fall to get started again. Whether the Lions roster will feature Wedgeworth on it remains to be seen.
Wedgeworth is on track to graduate in December. He has a full schedule of amateur events lined up for the summer, including the acclaimed Southern Amateur, U.S. Amateur qualifying and the Mississippi Amateur. The original plan was to play in those and possibly turn professional in the fall or next spring. With the NCAA discussing a waiver for spring sports athletes to gain a year of eligibility, Wedgeworth said returning for another year would give him more tournament experience.
“I was going to try to build my resume a little bit this summer,” he said. “This has changed everything now. With a new possibility of me coming back, that’s 10 more tournaments I can play in and do the same thing and build that resume. It’s wait and see. I would like to come back for sure; at the same time, we don’t know the final decision. Hopefully within a week we’ll find out.”
Whether Wedgeworth turns pro or returns for another year, he said his game is better now than when he arrived from junior college in Mississippi.
“I’ve definitely improved since I got here,” he said. “We have good courses and we have a really good coach – that definitely has helped. I feel more comfortable playing really well. I played well before I got to UNA but it was in spurts. When I got to UNA I kind of figured out how to play well for longer periods of time. Outside of this last little slump I had, I felt like I had played really well for my two years here.”