Central Arkansas coach Ryke Dismuke had high expectations for his team entering its first tournament of the fall.
“I honestly felt like we were the best team coming in,” Dismuke said.
But after two rounds of the Golfweek Program Challenge at True Blue Plantation in Pawleys Island, S.C., the Bears had yet to confirm Dismuke’s belief. Central Arkansas trailed leader Campbell by just six shots, but was in sixth place out of 12 teams and had failed to play to its potential in favorable conditions.
“After the first round, to say it was frustrating was an understatement,” Dismuke said. “No wind the first day, no wind the second day, and we never really took advantage of the golf course at all.”
But the Bears hung around and with the lead teams struggling in what was a windy final round, Central Arkansas rallied with a 4-under 284 to notch a two-shot victory over second-place Jacksonville State.
“We just did well with that adversity,” Dismuke said.
It was a comforting start to the season to say the least for a Central Arkansas team that has improved each season since becoming a Division I member in 2007.
The Bears nearly qualified for an NCAA Regional last season, placing second at the Southland Conference Championship and finishing No. 78 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings. The team did lose two of its top three scorers from last season in Antonio Costa and Josh Sims, but returns a solid group that includes sophomore Pep Angles, who led the team in stroke average (73.18) as a freshman, and senior Austin Moix, who finished runner-up in Pawleys Island.
Moix finished at 9-under 207 and made some noise with an eagle at the difficult par-5 fourth hole in each of the final two rounds. He closed the tournament with a pair of 4-under 68s.
Central Arkansas also had a pair of newcomers, junior Richard Farmer and freshman James Newton, finish T-18.
“It’s important that we started out with a win,” Dismuke said. “Especially with the length of the golf course and the opportunities it gives you to try and take advantage of it, it allowed us to test our gameplan and see how we’re following it as a team.
“This really lets us see where we are as the year starts.”
And so far, with one tournament in the books, Central Arkansas looks to be fulfilling its coach’s high expectations.
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BREAKTHROUGH VICTORY: James Madison sophomore Trey Smith was in uncharted territory entering the final round of the Golfweek Program Challenge. He had the lead.
After a bogey on the opening hole, one had to wonder if the nerves of chasing his first collegiate victory might prove too much for Smith.
But there was no such problem. He tallied five birdies in his next 14 holes, including three in a row on Nos. 13-15. Even with two closing bogeys, it was enough for Smith to shoot 2-under 70 and wrap up his first win.
“I don’t think it’s really soaked in completely, but it’s a great feeling,” said Smith, who finished at 11-under 205. “I didn’t get out to the best of starts, but I knew I had a lot of holes left and I just kept grinding out there and finished strong.”
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THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE GOLF . . .
Tar Heel Intercollegiate
UNC Finley Golf Course, Chapel Hill, N.C., Sept. 15-16
The field: Boston College, Charlotte, Duke, East Carolina, East Tennessee State, Furman, Gardner-Webb, Maryland, North Carolina, North Carolina State, UNC-Greensboro, UNC-Wilmington, Virginia Commonwealth, Notre Dame
The skinny: Notre Dame gets a sneak peek at some of its new ACC foes: Boston College, Duke, Maryland, host North Carolina and North Carolina State. It was announced Wednesday that the Irish would be joining the conference in all sports but football.
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Wolf Run Intercollegiate
Wolf Run Golf Club, Zionsville, Ind., Sept. 15-16
The field: Akron, Butler, Eastern Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois, IPFW, IUPUI, Miami (Ohio), Michigan State, Northern Illinois, Ohio State, Texas Tech, Wisconsin.
The skinny: The host Hoosiers are coming off a 15-shot win in their season-opening Northern Intercollegiate. Illinois, and NCAA champion Thomas Pieters, also are in the field.
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Golfweek Conference Challenge
Spirit Hollow Golf Club, Burlington, Iowa, Sept. 16-18
The field: Ball State, Campbell, Central Arkansas, Florida Gulf Coast, Iowa, Jacksonville State, Kansas, Long Beach State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Missouri, San Francisco, San Jose State, Tulsa, Wake Forest, Xavier
The skinny: Schools from 15 different conferences gather in Middle America, allowing teams to face opponents they normally wouldn’t encounter. Host Iowa finished sixth last year and won in 2010.
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Inverness Club, Toledo, Ohio, Sept. 17-18
The field: Florida State, Kent State, Liberty, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, North Texas, Penn State, South Florida, Toledo.
The skinny: Defending champion Kent State, which qualified for match play at last season’s NCAA Championship, highlights the field at this classic Donald Ross design. Florida State and Liberty, the 2011 Inverness runner-up, also finished in the top 10 at NCAAs.
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Kikkor Husky Invitational
Gold Mountain Golf Club, Bremerton, Wash., Sept. 17-18
The field: Arizona State, BYU, Gonzaga, Loyola, Minnesota, Oregon, Pacific, Pepperdine, Seattle, St. Mary’s, San Diego State, Texas A&M, UC Davis, Washington, Washington State
The skinny: Just as important is the corn hole tournament – the 2012 Kikkor Golf Cornhole Championship – that will be held before the event. Weather shortened this event to just 18 holes last year. Washington senior Chris Williams, the world’s No. 1 amateur, is the defending champion. The host Huskies also won the team title.