GREENSBORO, N.C. – After 18 holes of action at the NCAA Division III Championships, the Linfield men’s golf team sits in 25th place, 10 spots away from advancing. The Wildcats collectively carded a 19-over-par score of 307 for Tuesday’s first round, competing on the west course of the Grandover Resort.
Oglethorpe University and St. John’s University (Minn.) currently share top team honors, each with a total score of two-under-par 286. Craig Stevenson of Oglethorpe sits alone in first place after carding a six-under-par 66.
Wednesday’s second round will narrow the competition from 40 to 15 teams, plus the next five highest individuals not associated with an advancing squad.
“Our current goal is to make that cut,” said head coach Greg Copeland. “It looks like we’re going to have to shoot really well tomorrow to make it.”
Leading the way for the ‘Cats was Alex Fitch, who shot two-over-par 74 and sits in a 17-way tie for 43rd place.
Three other Linfield golfers scored in the 70s: Josh Kay, Yutaro Sakamoto and A.J. Taylor. Kay carded a three-over-par 75 (tied-60th), while Sakamoto and Taylor each scored seven-over-par 79 (t-124th).
Rounding out the Linfield competition was Tommy Schmitz, who carded a 12-over-par 84 (t-188th).
Kay and Sakamoto played well despite struggling through injury and illness. Kay suffered a wrist injury last week and Sakamoto woke up Tuesday morning with the flu.
“We weren’t at full strength today but we did all right,” Copeland said. “Josh probably played the best, though he would have been better if he could have made some putts. It was pretty impressive how well he did for being in pain on every shot.”
Meanwhile, Taylor provided the most dramatic play of the day. On the very first hole, he hit into a hazard, but the ball rolled back onto a footbridge. Rather than dropping the ball and taking the penalty, he elected to hit the ball from where it sat. The gamble paid off; Taylor’s shot rolled up over a hill and stopped two feet from the hole, allowing him to still make par.
“The courses are tough, but they’re fair,” Copeland said. “If you make good shots, you get rewarded. But you can get yourself in a little bit of trouble, too.”
Copeland predicts there will be a minimal score difference between the clubs that do and do not make the inital cut. With such little margin for error, every shot counts, and the ‘Cats need to be at their best to extend their season.
“They’re having fun. They’re competing hard,” Copeland said of his golfers. “And they’re excited for tomorrow to see if they can make up some ground and make that cut.”
NEXT: The ‘Cats tee off at noon (Eastern Daylight Time) Wednesday on the east course at the Grandover Resort. They will again be paired with Penn State-Harrisburg and North Central University.