BLANCO, Texas - Linfield sits in sixth place following the first day of action at the Texas Lutheran Intercollegiate Invitational, held at Vaaler Creek Golf Club.
Mary Hardin-Baylor of Texas leads the way with a first-round total of 300, one stroke in front of Cal Lutheran, ranked 14th among NCAA Division III programs.
Linfield, rated 21st this week, shot 315 over the opening 18 holes, one stroke better than Northwest Conference rival Pacific Lutheran.
Host school Texas Lutheran, the defending American Southwest Conference champion, is 11th in the team standings. The Bulldogs placed third at the Division III Championships a year ago.
In addition to the defending NWC champion Wildcats, the high-caliber tournament features 15 NCAA Division III teams from seven states.
Sitting atop the first-day leader board is Mary Hardin-Baylor’s Stayton Lindeman, who carded a 71. Crusaders teammate Mike McQuaid shares fourth place at 73.
Despite some early troubles, Wildcats senior Alex Fitch shot an opening-round total of 76 and shares 15th place heading to Tuesday’s second round. Fitch scored a 41 on the front nine before finishing his round with a 35 across the back nine.
Wildcat A.J. Taylor is in close pursuit of Fitch, shooting a 5-over-par 77 that included five three-putts.
Freshman Taylor Klopp (Sr., Eugene, Ore.) sits in a tie for 34th place with an 80 while Tommy Schmitz is two strokes back at 82.
Linfield’s Taylor Pirnke (Sr., Mill Creek, Wash.) shot an 85 on Monday, but his round was disqualified inside the clubhouse when it was discovered he signed an inaccurate scorecard.
“It’s been challenging,” said Wildcats coach Greg Copeland. “There are a lot of tight holes with a lot of hazards and rocks to deal with.”
Fitch, the reigning NWC champion, experienced an “up-and-down day,” he said.
His morning began with a triple bogey followed by a double bogey, putting him 5-over-par after just two holes.
He settled down and played much better over the ensuing nine holes, crafting four birdies and an eagle on the 450-yard 11th hole.
Fitch was 4-over-par over the final five holes to finish at 76.
“Overall, we played pretty well,” said Copeland. “We just didn’t putt the ball real well.”