Division II teams are often overlooked, but should they be? Let’s dive into that topic in this week’s “Fantasy or Reality?”
Division II teams can’t go low on tough courses: Fantasy. After Round 1 of the Golfweek Division II Spring Invitational, four teams shot under par on a tough Palmer-designed Legacy Course at Reunion Resort. The par-72, nearly 6,900-yard layout didn’t faze many of the top players in the field, either. Twenty-six players were at par or better after Round 1; however, a few of those 26 still had a few holes to go in their first round. Barton College’s Dermot McElhennon shot a 6-under 66 to lead and seventh-ranked Jose Joia shot a 2-under 70, which currently puts him T-9. One of the players who didn’t get to finish his round is Southern Amateur winner Alex Carpenter of Albilene Christian, who through 15 holes is 2 under. Carpenter already has won four tournaments this year, but a victory this week would be his most impressive yet.
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Alex Carpenter is the man to beat: Reality. Just because Carpenter plays for Division-II Abilene Christian doesn’t mean you will not hear of him after the Golfweek Spring Invitational. With a victory at the Southern Amateur at Shoal Creek last summer, Carpenter earned an exemption into next month’s Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. Carpenter will represent not only Abilene Christian, but all Division II golfers who want the respect of D-I programs and standout amateurs across the country. At the Southern Am, Carpenter defeated UCLA star freshman Patrick Cantlay by a stroke, and Auburn star Blayne Barber by three. Other standout players Carpenter defeated at the Southern Am include Bud Cauley, Richard Lee, Russell Henley and Conrad Shindler.
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Only Barton is considered a contender at the tournament: Fantasy. Despite Barton College coming out with a 9 under in Round 1, at least three other teams will give the Bulldogs a run at Reunion. Lander, Mount Olive and Lynn University are the only other teams that shot under par, and both Lander and Mount Olive are six shots back. The Fighting Knights of Lynn are eight behind. However, Lynn knows how to win tournaments this year, and have done so three times already. Lander is the 36th-ranked team in the country and looking for its first win of the year. Barton did post a great score in Round 1, but there still are several teams that are going to put up one heck of a fight for two more rounds.
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Some schools are blowing a major opportunity: Reality. Every team wants to go out and win every tournament they compete in, but after Round 1 of the Spring Invitational, some teams will have to change their goals. Top-ranked teams like 18th-ranked University of Indianapolis are in 13th after an opening-round 298 (10 over), and 24th-ranked Nova Southeastern, along with 33rd-ranked St Mary’s, are T-14 after opening-round 301s (13 over). Those top teams in the field put themselves into a bit of a hole after Round 1, and will now have to try for a top-5 finish rather than an impressive win over a stacked field.