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HAINES CITY, Fla. – Greensboro College coach Dirk Fennie said his team had one goal coming into the 2010-11 season: Break par as a team.
They can cross that off the list.
Led by senior Brock Elder’s 4-under 68, Greensboro shot 6-under 282 on Sunday at Southern Dunes Golf & Country Club to take an eight-shot lead after Round 1 of Golfweek’s Division III Fall Invitational. The Pride lead Concordia (Moorhead, Minn.) and Skidmore (Saratoga Springs, N.Y.), both tied at 2 over for the day.
“I think we were ready to play,” Fennie said. “I don’t think the (Golf World/Nike Golf Coaches’ Poll) preseason ranking of seventh satisfied my guys. That might have given them some motivation.”
Elder was tied for the tournament lead with Huntingdon senior J.P. Kircher and Wittenberg junior Ricky Boerner.
“The putter was definitely working today,” Elder said. “I just got a new driver in the bag (a TaylorMade R9 rather than his old Titleist 905S) and I hit that well. But when I missed the green, I was 100 percent on up-and-downs, which is never the case for me.”
Greensboro’s No. 1 player, Ben Nihart, shot 69 and was a shot behind Elder.
“I was talking to my roommate last night and I told him that I’ve got my money on Ben and our team,” said Elder, who let out a howl of excitement on the driving range when he found out what Nihart had shot. “I told him if we play like we can, there’s not a team out here that’s going to beat us. We can dominate, there’s no doubt about it.”
The Pride, of Greenboro, N.C., returned all five of their starters from last year’s team, which finished T-11 at the NCAA Division III Championship.
“It seems like everybody else lost a lot of players and we are bringing everyone back,” Elder said. “We have the best team chemistry we’ve had since I’ve been here, which really goes a long way.”
Boerner’s 68 was bogey-free, as he made a pair of birdies on the front (Nos. 4 and 6) and the back (Nos. 15-16).
“I was hitting the ball really well all day today,” Boerner said. “Something about the course sets up well for me – I think it’s the distances. I’m a pretty solid wedge player and I had a lot of good distances into greens, so I was able to put them in there pretty close and make some putts.”
Kircher, who leads a Huntingdon team (Montgomery, Ala.) that finds itself in fifth place at 4 over, played his first nine holes (the back nine) in 4-under 32.
“I got it going early and then got a little loose on the back nine, but I kept it together,” Kircher said. “I really thought I would have it going when we turned onto the second nine, but I missed some putts here and there and cooled off.”
After a bogey at the third (his 12th hole of the day), Kircher missed a 6-footer for eagle at the par-5 fourth, where he tapped in for birdie before finishing out in even par.
Playing in the same group as Kircher was Mississippi College’s Ryan Ratcliffe, who shot 69 after bogeying his final hole. The two players were leading the tournament for much of the morning before Ratcliffe’s three-putt at the finishing hole.
“We knew where we were at,” said Kircher, who tied his lowest collegiate round. “We started to push each other a little bit, especially when we realized we were out front. I really need to stay a little more even-keel tomorrow, though. My emotions got going a little bit today because I haven’t been in that position too much.”
Second-place Concordia was paced by Zach Kappes’ bogey-free 70, while the Cobbers’ No. 1 player, Pat Deitz, turned in a 75 after making triple bogey at the par-5 12th.
“I thought our kids kept their wits about them and stayed pretty calm and patient,” said Concordia coach Duane Siverson. “This is about where we know we can play. Last year, we averaged 303, but we know we are capable of being in the range we hit today.”
Ryan Lloyd and Joseph Flowers led the way for second-place Skidmore at 1-under 71, while Transylvania (Lexington, Ky.) was fourth thanks to Justin Tereshko’s 70.
Methodist, the defending national champions and No. 1 in the Golfweek preseason coaches poll, was T-6 at 5 over. Alex Weir, the Monarchs’ only returning player, led Methodist with 70 after bogeying the first hole.