HOWEY-IN-THE-HILLS, Fla. – Carding the lowest one-day round by a Linfield team at a NCAA Division III Championship event, the Linfield Wildcats looked like a different club on the second day of action at the 2012 national championship tournament. The Wildcats, led by a 2-under-par 70 from standout Alex Fitch, shot a team score of 300 on the 6,895-yard Las Colinas course at Mission Inn Resort and Club Wednesday.
Though their round was one for the history books, it wasn’t enough to overcome a spotty 330-stroke performance a day earlier on the El Campeon course. Linfield, the Northwest Conference champion, placed 27th overall for the two rounds combined, falling short of the team’s intended goal of a making the cut with a top-15 position.
Fitch, who was 6-over par Tuesday on the El Campeon course, returned to form on Wednesday. He dropped in three birdies on the day, those coming on the second, eighth and 12th holes of the Las Colinas course. Fitch elevated his standing from a tie for 83rd after Day 1 to sharing 24th place with a two-round total of 148.
Wildcats freshmen Taylor Klopp (Jr., Eugene, Ore.) and Connor Magnuson shot matching 3-over-75s Wednesday and both weathered adversity during their rounds.
Klopp reeled off a string of 11 straight even-par scores before bogeying the 12th hole. His birdie on the 400-yard 16th hole dropped him to 1-over-par heading to the 18th hole. As fate would have it, Klopp’s ball became lodged next to a pinecone, resulting in a double bogey on the final hole. Klopp ended the tournament tied for 114th place, scoring 83-75-158.
Magnuson was 2-over after nine holes, before taking a bogey on No. 11 and a double bogey on 15. Even pars on 16 and 17, plus a birdie on 18, gave Magnuson a decent score for his first trip to nationals. Magnuson’s scoring line read 85-75-160, good for a share of 133rd.
Double bogeys on the third and 10th holes caused A.J. Taylor (Sr., Kirkland, Wash.) to finish with an 8-over-80. Taylor finished with a two-day score of 164, placing 161st.
Bogeys on the final five holes resulted in Tommy Schmitz finishing Wednesday’s round two strokes back at 82. He concluded his second national championship tournament with a score of 90-82-172.
Even though the team will not advance, the Wildcats still have a horse in the race. Fitch stands at the threshold of a potential individual national championship, according to his coach.
“Alex has the opportunity now to put a lot of pressure on the leaders of other teams who are focused on carrying their teams,” said Copeland.
Oglethorpe’s Anthony Maccaglia leads all golfers with a 5-under total of 139. Fitch remains nine strokes back. In the team standings, Oglethorpe leads challenger Methodist by 14 strokes with two rounds left to play.
“As an individual, Alex has the kind of game and the mentality to make a push for the championship. He can go out there now and play aggressively with nothing to lose. It’s entirely possible he could make up those nine strokes and win the championship.”
‘CAT SCRATCH: Linfield’s 27th-place team finish at the NCAAs was slightly better than last season’s final placing of 30th but remained short of the 17th-place showing in 2008 and a 25th-place position in 2009.
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