Jaeger, Chattanooga retain Conf. Challenge lead

Stephan Jaeger during Round 1 of the <em>Golfweek</em> Conference Challenge

Men's Rankings »

RankNameSchoolRating
1Casey FernandezSo. Miss.  66.31 
2Tomasz AndersonJ'Ville St  67.12 
3Chase KoepkaUSF-Bulls  67.27 
4Hunter StewartVanderbilt  67.27 
5Maverick McNealyStanford  67.32 

Men's Team Rankings »

RankNameRatingEvents
1South Florida 68.18 
2Illinois 68.90 
3SE Louisiana 69.66 
4Florida State 69.78 
5Baylor 69.89 

1.) Deja vu: Stephan Jaeger and Chattanooga are your leaders once again at the Golfweek Conference Challenge. Chattanooga is at 6-under 570 (279-291), two shots ahead of Oklahoma State (283-289). Arkansas is 2 under par after shooting 280-294.

Jaeger is at 8-under 136 (67-69), one shot ahead of Oklahoma State’s Sean Einhaus (68-69). Arkansas’ Josh Eure, a former Golfweek Junior Invitational champion, is 6 under par after shooting 70-68. Eure got up-and-down for par from 60 yards on No. 16 and holed a 30-foot par putt on the 17th.

The weather was the story during the second round. Temperatures were in the 50s with constant wind and rain. Monday’s scoring average of 76.1 was 2.4 shots higher than the previous round’s. Jaeger’s group, the last of the day, played in approximately 6 1/2 hours.

“It was miserable. That’s one word I can use to describe it,” Jaeger said. “The wind is tough on the golf, and the rain is just so tiring. It kept hammering down and hammering down. I’ve played in wind and a little rain, and I’ve played in a lot of rain before, but the combination made this some of the worst weather I’ve ever played in.”

Jaeger birdied five of his first six holes Monday, including a 35-footer for birdie on No. 1. That cushion made it a bit easier to cope with the conditions. “I just tried to hit greens and do the best I could,” said Jaeger, the 2010 and 2011 Southern Conference player of the year.

• • •

2.) Take me to your leader: Oklahoma State’s 289 was the low round of the day. It included a 69 from Sean Einhaus and a 71 from sophomore Ian Davis, who’s playing just his third college event. The 71 was Davis’ first sub-par round in collegiate competition. Einhaus is 8 under par, with 12 birdies, in his past 27 holes. He made six birdies and three bogeys Tuesday.

“I just tried to not get ahead of myself and just try and grind,” said Einhaus, who finished 15th at the season-opening Olympia Fields/Fighting Illini Invitational. “I just tried to play shot-by-shot. I know that’s cliche, but especially in these conditions you really had to not worry about anything but the next shot. I didn’t hit it that great, but I putted it well and kept the ball in front of me. Every time I was 150 yards and in I hit it close and had good birdie chances.”

In contrast to his good play, Einhaus has struggled on Spirit Hollow’s easiest hole, the 527-yard, par-5 second hole. Einhaus has bogeyed the reachable par-5 in both rounds. He’s made amends with birdies on the 183-yard, par-3 third both times, making a 40-foot birdie putt there Monday.

• • •

3.) In position: Iowa put itself in position to repeat at the Golfweek Conference Challenge until a poor back nine.

The Hawkeyes started the day at 5 under par, four shots back of leader Chattanooga. Iowa was 4 under par for its first nine holes Monday and held the lead during part of Monday’s play. It played the back nine in 10 over par, though.

“I think you’ll see that with all the teams today, that that back nine was harder,” said Iowa head coach Mark Hankins. “It was a super-long round out there and it got wetter and nastier as the day went on.”

Iowa is in fourth place at 1 over par after rounds of 283-294.

• • •

4.) Lemons out of lemonade: Ball State made the most of the poor conditions, shooting a 3-over 291 that tied the second-best round of the day (Chattanooga and New Mexico also shot 291). Ball State is in seventh place, but is nine shots ahead of Georgia Tech and just two shots behind Cal, giving the Cardinals, No. 101 in last season’s Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, a chance to pick up quality head-to-head victories this week.

The Cardinals’ good play shouldn’t be a surprise. “This is spring golf for us in the Midwest, so our guys kind of embraced it and took on the challenge,” said Ball state head coach Mike Fleck.

Ball State got a 2-under 70 from senior Tyler Merkel and a 72 from T.J. Carpenter. Merkel won the season-opening Northern Intercollegiate, and Carpenter won Ball State’s previous event, the Falcon Invitational.

Tuesday’s forecast is for better weather – a high of 69 degrees and just a 30-percent chance of rain. That’s welcome news to the rest of the Golfweek Conference Challenge field. Not the Cardinals, though.

“We like this stuff,” Merkle said. “It’s more fun this way.”

• • •

5.) Tech’s wreck: Georgia Tech, No. 4 in Golfweek’s preseason rankings, shot 301 in Monday’s second round and currently sits in eighth place at 19-over 595 (294-301). Georgia Tech had three 73s Monday, but also had an 82 and an 86.

The Yellow Jackets lost three players from last year’s team that finished No. 2 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings – second-team All-Americans J.T. Griffin and Kyle Scott, and ACC champion Paul Haley. The Yellow Jackets, led by freshmen Anders Alberston and Oliver Schniederjans, started this season with a promising third-place finish at the Carpet Capital Collegiate. The first two rounds at this event showed that it’s not going to be all smooth sailing for this young team, though.

“We just have to be better,” Georgia Tech head coach Bruce Heppler said after the team’s first-round 294. “That’s what happens when you lose three seniors. You’re not going to be spot-on 100 percent of the time.”

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