HOWEY-IN-THE-HILLS, Fla. – Prompted by a teammate to make a switch to his lucky cap when his round was sagging, Linfield’s Alex Fitch responded with even-par scores or better across the final 10 holes Thursday during the third round of the NCAA Division III Championships at Mission Inn Resort and Club.
Playing as an individual on the El Campeon course after his team fell short of the cut on Wednesday, Fitch struggled, carding five bogeys and one double bogey on holes 1 through 8.
Once he dropped to 6-over-par with his third straight bogey on hole No. 8, “Tommy Schmitz suggested I change from my white hat to my red one,” said Fitch. “That’s the hat I was wearing during my good (second) round and it’s what I wore at the conference championships when I shot a 68.”
Wearing the white cap, Fitch’s normally reliable driver was failing him.
“Alex couldn’t find his swing early on,” said Wildcats coach Greg Copeland. “He was a little crooked off the tee and that put him in some bad spots. He hit the ball in to the water a couple of times. Once he figured things out, he played really well from there.”
Fitch sank a birdie putt on the 515-yard first hole, but experienced some hiccups after that, including a double bogey on the 445-yard fifth hole that pushed him to 3-over par.
“Early on, my driver wasn’t there for me,” he said. “I’m glad I was able to come back after the eighth hole and not lose any ground (in the individual standings) after that.”
Fitch is among five individuals not affiliated with teams still competing. He began the day tied for 24th place before falling back slightly to 26th heading to an early morning tee time.
Friday’s round will mark the conclusion of Fitch’s collegiate career, already considered one of the finest in Linfield history.
“I have a little momentum now and I’m looking forward to finishing well.”
‘CAT SCRATCH: Linfield’s five-member delegation volunteered to participate in a skills clinic held in conjunction with the national tournament. The Wildcats were able to tutor about 30 youth affliated with Orlando-area Special Olympics on the finer points of driving, putting, chipping and working out of sand traps.