MACON, Ga. — The Mercer men's golf program has already seen its share of success this year; the team already played four separate tournaments as a part of its fall season.
But now, the real fun begins, as Mercer officially opens its 2022 season on Sunday at the Advance Golf Partners Collegiate in Palm City, Florida.
The Bears will do it with a familiar face.
“It just kind of feels like home,” head coach Jason Payne said. “I think home's an important way to describe what Mercer feels like to me and my family.”
Payne returned to Macon in June 2021 for his second stint as Mercer head coach, after four years at Charleston Southern.
“My phone rang a lot and some of the younger guys that I had coached my first time around were calling and asking to come back,” Payne said. “Everything just kind of lined up at the right time.”
As Mercer contends for its first-ever Southern Conference title this spring, there's only one X-factor that matters; the Bears think they've got it.
“A lot of times you see some college teams that are pretty good at their home course but are not real good, and when you take them on the road, they don't play as well,” Payne said. “We always look at players that are kind of the other way around.”
For one Bear, playing away from home proves to be no issue.
Tobias Jonsson: Mercer’s talented sophomore -- from Sweden.
“He's a great teammate and he leads by just consistent play so when our guys are around him every day working on their games playing, it's good to see them compete against him and when they can, beat him at home,” Payne said.
Jonsson previously played at Young Harris College in north Georgia, but also knew he could play at the Division I level.
Coach Payne agreed.
“I contacted Coach Payne, and he was like, ‘Tobias I'm going to Mercer, do you want to come with me,’” Jonsson said. “And I was like, ‘yeah, why not?’”
With a recent successful finish at the Jones Cup in Sea Island, Georgia, Jonsson's individual success already this spring is already garnering attention.
He ranks inside the top 200 of the World Amateur Golf Rankings (WAGR), and he's the 29th Best Collegiate Golfer in the country.
Jonsson hopes to rank inside the top 100 of the WAGR rankings by the end of the year. It’s certainly a high expectation for himself, but it only means equally high expectations for Mercer’s entire team.
It all begins Sunday in Palm City.