Junior Caleb Manuel is in his first season on the Georgia golf team after transferring from UConn. The Bulldogs finished ninth last month in the 2023 SEC Championship. As Manuel and his teammates prepare for the NCAA Bath Regional, which takes place May 15-17, he spoke about the move from Connecticut to Georgia, his growth in confidence throughout the season and explained why he believes the Bulldogs are capable of making a run on the national stage.

(This interview has been edited for clarity.)

Q: Since coming from UConn, what would you say has been a big difference from coming up north to down south?

A: Definitely the weather and being able to practice year round. I’m used to having that break in the middle and practicing indoors. It’s nice to practice outdoors and not hit into a screen all the time. And then the schedule is a lot better playing against better players and being pushed a little more when it comes to teammates and stuff like that.

Q: What’s something that you think that you’ve worked on since you’ve been here, something that you struggled with back at Uconn?

A: I think just kind of believing that I belong. At UConn, the competition wasn’t as strong in tournaments and stuff like that. So it was a little easier for me if I wasn’t playing well, I wouldn’t finish almost last. So, just to kind of push myself and believe in myself. I’m still working on it. Golf is very mental, and I think confidence and mentality is a big part once you get to this level.

Q: Can you elaborate a little bit more on the mentality that you’ve had throughout this transfer of moving from back home to all the way down here?

A: Maybe I was a little intimidated at first just because I never really had to qualify to get in the lineup. And here you’re pretty much qualifying for every event. So I would say at the beginning, it was a little nerve wracking to see where I would fit on the team skill wise. But once I got a little bit of confidence and qualified for my first event, it was a little easier from there.

Q: What made you want to get into golf and fall in love with it to end up pursuing it?

A: I played a lot of sports growing up. I played baseball, basketball and soccer when I was about 13. And then I played basketball throughout high school, because where I’m from, there wasn’t much to do in the winter. I tried to keep busy. I started golf probably around 10 or 11. Just for fun. Then around 12 or 13, I started to play competitively. And then I realized that I was pretty good at it and that I could maybe play in college once I got to the age 14 or 15. And it was just a lot of fun. My parents never really pushed me into it. They would drop me off and then pick me up and just repeat that all summer long. So it was just something to do that I became good at.

Q: I know you all have regionals coming up in the middle of May and your last tournament was on April 22. Do you feel like that’s enough time to get ready for NCAA regionals?

A: For the spring it’s probably the largest gap we’ve had between tournaments just because we’ve been go go go and travel travel. But now I think it’s plenty of time. I know we have to come in fifth (place) to make it to the next round. And everyone has kind of like a fresh slate and you have to play well there. So I think we’ve got the right guys to do it.

Q: What makes you think that you have the right guys to do it?

A: Coach (Haack) has always said we’re ready to explode and win a golf tournament. I think I think he’s right and I think one or two guys are just going to play really well. And I feel like we’re all kind of bunched together like skills wise in tournaments. One guy will finish first on our team by two shots versus the fifth guy and I think we’re all just ready to just kind of separate from each other. Someone’s going to do it and then it’s just going to move on.

Sarah Sims is a student in the Sports Media Certificate program at the University of Georgia’s Carmical Sports Media Institute.