Courtesy of MAC Athletic Communication Departments
Ball State: 24th, 10+ (290)
MILTON, Ga. -- The Ball State men’s golf team found itself atop the leaderboard early Tuesday, dropped some shots down the stretch but still finished day one of the NCAA Championships ahead of five teams ranked in the top 20 in the country.
The Cardinals, playing in the morning wave with half the teams in the field, were in first place at 5-under par near the turn at the Capital City Club’s Crabapple Course.
After the conclusion of the challenging back nine, they had posted a 10-over par total of 290 for their best ever NCAA Championships round in their first appearance at the finals since 1986.
Ball State was in 28th place when it came off the course but moved up to 24th as the top 15 seeds, playing in the afternoon wave, made their way around the par-70, 7,319-yard layout.
By the day’s end, the Cardinals were ahead of No. 6-ranked New Mexico, No. 10 TCU, No. 11 Florida, No. 12 Southern California and No. 19 Auburn.
“We hung in there,” Ball State coach Mike Fleck said. “We couldn’t have asked for a better start, and then the golf course kind of changed as our round went on. We gave some shots away on the back nine, but we’re still going to be in the mix going into the next two days.”
Tony Lazzara shot Ball State to the top early Tuesday with birdies on three of his first five holes. A pair of consecutive birdies to start his back nine had Lazzara to 4-under and among the top 5 individually. He finished his day at even-par 70, matching the best ever round by a Cardinal at the NCAA finals, and sits in a tie for 34th place.
Alex Stinson, who recorded 15 pars on the day, and Tyler Merkel each posted rounds of 2-over par 72 and find themselves in a tie for 66th. Joe Gasser turned in a round of 76 as Ball State’s fourth counting score, while McCormick Clouser had a solid round going until the tough final three-hole stretch left him with a 77.
“When we were playing in the morning, it was calm, the conditions were softer, and the holes were a little bit easier,” Fleck said. “On the back nine, the holes were a little bit tougher, the wind picked up, and everything started to firm up a little bit. The golf course was definitely getting harder as the day went on.”
Arizona State freshman Jon Rahm turned in the round of the day Tuesday with what is believed to be a competitive course-record 61. He led the Sun Devils to a round of 10-under par, which was the top score on day one. Arizona State is followed on the team leaderboard by Georgia Tech (-6), Alabama (-5), Illinois (-4) and California (-3).
Ball State will play in the afternoon wave for Wednesday’s second round with tee times starting at 2 p.m. off the 10th tee. The Cardinals will again play with Texas Tech and Coastal Carolina.
There are two rounds of stroke play remaining before the field will be cut to eight teams for match play. Ball State will enter the second round 11 shots out of eighth place.
Kent State: 11th, 2+ (282)
MILTON, Ga. – Kent State recovered from a slow start at the Capital City Club's Crabapple Course to shoot a 2-over-par 282 and finish Tuesday's first round of the NCAA Men's Golf Championships in 11th place.
With Arizona State streaking out of the gate to a 10-under-par 270, the 23rd-ranked Golden Flashes found themselves 12 shots out of first place, but just three behind the seventh-place tie of Texas and Oklahoma. The top eight finishers in the 30-team field after Thursday's third round will advance to match play.
Director of golf/head coach Herb Page was thrilled with Kent State's position considering his team's six-over-par start after just four holes.
"The easiest part of the golf course is the first four or five holes," said Page. "We made a double bogey and a couple of bogeys early and just didn't get our engines going. But then when we got to the hard part of the golf course, we played awesome. I've talked all year about this team and how mentally tough our guys are. This was one of those rounds where you see 2-over par and think it was just a so-so day, but in reality it was a fabulous round."
Nick Scott was the exception in the Kent State lineup, cruising through the first 10 holes of the Capital City Club's 7,319-yard, par-70 Crabapple Course at 4-under-par. The sophomore birdied holes 4, 6, 7 and 10 before bogeying the 16th and 17th to shoot a 2-under-par 68 that was good for ninth place individually.
"I felt pretty good all day," said Scott. "Along with the birdies, I made two big par putts, a 40-footer on No. 8 and a 20-footer at No. 9 that really kept the round going. The putter was rolling really well. On the birdies, I just hit it close and made a lot of 4-and-5-footers. I had a really good time."
Senior Kevin Miller's round was emblematic of the rest of the Kent State team's comeback. After opening with double bogey and playing the first four holes at three-over, Miller battled back to shoot a 71 that was highlighted by back-to-back birdies to close at 17 and 18.
"I didn't hit the greatest drive on 17, but hit as good a second shot as I could out of the fairway bunker and made a 30-foot putt," said Miller, who is playing in NCAA Championships for the fourth consecutive year. "Then I hit my drive into the left trees and hit as good a shot as I did all day, a rescue shot to 4 feet and made birdie. It was a great finish. My day was typical of how we've been playing for a few tournaments now. If we just get started fast in round two we'll be better off, but it was a good job by our guys in round one to grind it out."
Junior Corey Conners struggled through a rare off day with his ball striking, but still managed to card a 1-over-par 71. Fellow juniors Taylor Pendrith shot 72 and Kyle Kmiecik shot 78.
"Our guys fought their way back," said Page. "I was very proud of Nick Scott shooting that 68 and Kevin Miller with those birdies on the last two holes. Corey Conners had his C-game today, but he still managed to shoot 71 by just grinding it out. There were some low scores by other teams, but we could have been a lot worse. We played our way to a very respectable round after that start."
The 2-over-par team total by Kent State was the fourth best score in Tuesday's morning flight. The Golden Flashes will play in the afternoon on Wednesday in pairings that includes Oklahoma and UNLV. Nick Scott will be the first Kent State player to tee off at 1:10 p.m. on hole 10.