Courtesy of MAC Athletic Communication Departments
Ball State: 24th, +19 (290-289)
MILTON, Ga. -- Tony Lazzara posted Ball State’s best score Wednesday at the NCAA Championships for the second day in a row with a round of 69, though the Cardinals slipped a couple spots in the team race after a tough closing nine.
Lazzara is 1-under par for the tournament through 36 holes. He is Ball State’s top individual in a tie for 30th in the 156-player field heading into Thursday’s final round of stroke play.
The Cardinals dropped to 28th as a team Wednesday with a round of 289, which was one shot better than their opening round. They are 19-over heading into the third round and will play Thursday with 29th-place St. Mary’s and 30th-place South Carolina with tee times starting at 7 a.m.
“We’re going to be fine,” Ball State coach Mike Fleck said. “Our guys are probably a little disappointed, but they’re pretty resilient. We’re going to bounce back tomorrow. We actually have a lot to play for to try to move up and put some pretty good teams behind us.”
At the conclusion of Thursday’s round at the Capital City Club’s Crabapple Course , the field will be cut to eight teams for the match-play portion of the championships.
Georgia Tech moved into the lead Wednesday at 12-under par, taking a one-shot lead on top-seed California. Defending champion Texas and last year’s runner-up Alabama are both within four shots of the lead. Texas A&M is currently sitting in the eighth spot at even-par.
Arizona State’s Jon Rahm held onto the individual lead Wednesday despite a 2-over par round of 72. He is 7-under for the tournament with a one-shot lead on Greg Eason of UCF and Nicolas Echavarria of Arkansas. A group of five players is two shots back.
Lazzara got his round to as low as 3-under and four shots off the lead Wednesday after three straight birdies from the third hole through the fifth on what was Ball State’s second nine of the day. He closed with two bogeys but still managed his second consecutive round of par or better.
As a whole, the Cardinals did not play holes one through nine as well as they did on day one, posting a score of 8-over on that side. The reverse was true on the back nine, where Ball State opened the day, playing that side at 1-over, 10 shots better than the opening round.
Joe Gasser turned in Ball State’s second-best score of the day with a 72, while Alex Stinson and McCormick Clouser posted rounds of 74. Stinson is 6-over for the tournament, while Gasser is 8-over and Clouser 11-over.
Stinson saved a miraculous par on the final hole, getting up and down from 150 yards and a hole away to secure the round of 289 for the team, setting the program’s 18-hole NCAA finals record for the second straight day.
Tyler Merkel was Ball State’s non-counting score on the day. He played his front nine in even-par but found some trouble on his second nine on the way to a 77. Merkel is 9-over for the championships.
Ball State will get its third round started early Thursday, going off in the first groups at 7 a.m. Live scoring is available at ncaa.com.
Kent State: 27th, +15 (282-293)
MILTON, Ga. – For the second day in a row, Kent State suffered through a slow start at the Capital City Club's Crabapple Course.
There was no second-nine recovery this time, however, as the Golden Flashes slid from 11th to 27th place on Wednesday following a disappointing 13-over-par 293 in the second round of the NCAA Men's Golf Championships.
At 15-over for the tournament, director of golf/head coach Herb Page's team will begin Thursday's final round of stroke play 15 shots behind eighth-place Texas A&M. The top eight teams after the third round will advance to the match-play portion of the event.
Realistically, the Golden Flashes need their best round of the season and a whole lot of help to survive the cut.
"We have no excuses," said Page. "It was one of those days. We picked a bad day to have a bad day. You can't have one like this at this level, and we sort of got lapped by the field."
Kent State opened round two on the Crabapple Course's more difficult back nine. Over those first 45 holes, the Golden Flashes' quintet of Corey Conners, Taylor Pendrith, Kevin Miller, Kyle Kmiecik and Nick Scott combined for just two birdies.
When they turned to the easier front nine, Page expected some kind of rally. After all, "these guys have been resilient all year," he said.
But the turnaround never arrived.
"It just got worse," Page said. "We just didn't have any good scores from anybody. We needed to have people get under par today and we didn't get anybody there."
Pendrith was the only Kent State player to manage a few birdies coming in. The junior two-putted from 15-feet after reaching the par-5 fourth hole in two, then managed to get up and down after driving into a greenside bunker at the short par-4 fifth. A 2-under 33 on the second nine helped Pendrith card a 1-over-par 71 for the Flashes' low round of the day.
Conners was even par after 16 holes, but closed with back-to-back bogeys to shoot 72. Miller, Kmiecik and Scott all shot 75.
"Hopefully they will go out (on Thursday) and relax a little bit, hit some wedges in there and make some birdies," said Page. "We just didn't make any birdies today. And if you look at what the fielddid, that's where we kind of got run over."
Of the field's 30 teams, 14 shot below par on Wednesday. Tournament host Georgia Tech leads the event at 12-under-par, one shot better than second place California and two better than Texas.
Texas A&M shot a 5-under-par 275 in round two to move into the all important eighth spot. Six teams are within four shots of the Aggies.
"Golf is a funny game," said Page. "If we had a great round, we could move into the number. The problem is there are a lot of teams between us and that number. We won't give up. Our guys are all capable of shooting 4-or-5-under par. They've all done it, so that's what we are going to try to do tomorrow. I'm going to tell them to play aggressively. I'm going to tell them to go after some pins and see if we can get it under early … No, we won't give up and just go for a walk in the part tomorrow."