Heavyweights stumble in Southeast
SORRENTO, Fla. – As Georgia senior Adam Mitchell approached RedTail Golf Club’s 18th hole, one of his teammates yelled, “Hurry up, Mitch, and tap it in.”
Not only were dark clouds closing in quickly and thunder clapping overhead, but Mitchell was about to make another much-needed birdie for the Bulldogs.
Play was suspended just minutes after Mitchell tapped in for a team-low 68 in the first round of the NCAA Southeast Regional. The top three seeds – Georgia, South Carolina and Indiana – were the only teams to finish before a nearly four-hour rain delay.
Avoiding the delay wasn’t the only reason the top seeds were eager to get off the golf course. Except for South Carolina, it was a disappointing day for the headliners.
Second-seeded Indiana shot 10-over 294 and is in last place. The Hoosiers’ top player, Jorge Campillo, was 3 under par through 15 holes, but played his final three holes in 6 over to shoot 74. He made a quadruple-bogey 9 on the par-5 17th.
It was one of five scores of double bogey or higher for the 14th-ranked Hoosiers; none of their five players broke par on a day when more than one-third of the field was in the red.
Georgia, the No. 1 team in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, shot 2-under 282 to finish the day tied for seventh place, five shots outside the cut line. Mitchell was the only Bulldog to break par.
“It certainly wasn’t the opening round that we wanted to have, but we finished on a high note,” said Georgia head coach Chris Haack, whose team played the final two holes in 5 under. “They’ll probably be a little more apt to fire at flags (Friday).”
South Carolina, on the other hand, was in third after an 11-under 273. The Gamecocks finished fourth at the SEC Championship, 23 shots behind the champion Bulldogs, but had four players break 70 Friday.
The Gamecocks won the 2007 NCAA West Regional, but failed to advance to last year’s NCAA Championship.
South Carolina freshman Wesley Bryan led the team with a 67. Patrick Rada had a 68, while Mark Silvers III and George Bryan IV, Wesley’s older brother, shot 69s.
The Bryans’ father, George Bryan III, also played golf for South Carolina and owns the George Bryan Golf Academy in Chapin, S.C.
The Gamecocks are coming off a victory April 25 at the Cavalier Classic, which was shortened to one round because of weather.
“I think our wedges looked sharp and our attitudes looked good, which is what I wanted to see,” South Carolina head coach Bill McDonald said.
Host Central Florida shot 16-under 268 to take the first-round lead, even though its two highest scores came from its two best players.
Simon Ward, who won this year’s Conference USA Championship at RedTail, shot 1-under 70, but was the team’s throwout score. Blayne Barber, the conference’s player and freshman of the year, shot 69.
Brad Schneider and David Johnson both shot 66 to lead the Knights. Devin Spies, playing in just his second event of the year, shot 67. Spies and Johnson were teammates at Brevard Community College.
Schneider shot 29 on his opening nine, then survived a wild final nine. He made double bogey on No. 1 (his 10th hole), including a one-stroke penalty when he picked up his ball on the green without marking it.
He made bogey on three of his next four holes to fall to 3 under par before making eagle on the par-5 seventh. He also made eagle on the par-5 17th after a 75-foot putt.
Arizona, coming off a ninth-place finish at the Pac-10 Championship, was in second place after shooting 14-under 270 Thursday. The Wildcats’ Tarquin MacManus shot 8-under 63 to hold the individual lead.
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MISCOMMUNICATION: Tournament organizers took a page out of the U.S. Golf Association’s book, playing the 506-yard, par-5 second hole as a par 4 for the NCAA Southeast Regional. One problem: no one told the players and coaches. The hole was played as a par 5 for this year’s Conference USA Championship.
Georgia’s players and coaches didn’t learn of the change until the back nine. The Bulldogs played the hole 3 over.
Georgia senior Brian Harman had a 3-iron for his second shot, and aimed for the middle of the green in hopes of an easy two-putt birdie.
“If it had been a par-4, he’d have gone at it because there’s not a lot of trouble (around the green) and you want to give yourself a legitimate birdie chance,” Haack said. “I was a little disappointed that they didn’t tell us. Did we play it poorly because of that? Who knows, but I can tell you the mentality is a little different.”
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SHORT SHOTS: Florida State’s Matthew Savage is one of three golfers tied for second at 66, including birdies on Nos. 15-18. It’s quite a turnaround for Savage, who shot 86 last Friday in a U.S. Open local qualifier at Santa Lucia River Club in Port St. Lucie, Fla. ...Florida Atlantic’s Kelly McHugh, who is playing as an individual, made a hole-in-one on the 208-yard, par-3 15th. ...Charlotte, which had to win the Atlantic-10 Conference Championship to make the postseason because of its sub-.500 record, is tied for third with South Carolina. Corey Nagy is in second place after a 6-under 65, while Stefan Wiedergruen fired 66.