Oglethorpe extends D-3 lead behind Maccaglia

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DESTIN, Fla. – By the time Anthony Maccaglia reached his 10th hole Monday at Sandestin Resort’s Raven Course, he already was 5 over. Oglethorpe head coach Jim Owen was ready to give Maccaglia’s sturdy shoulders a rest.

Finish strong, be ready for tomorrow, Owen would say.

Maccaglia, playing his fourth tournament at Raven, doesn’t give up so easily. Upon finding out that so many of his teammates were under par, the junior rallied. He made six birdies over the next eight holes for a 1-under 70. Two teammates contributed the same number, and with a 69 from senior Hayden Jones, Oglethorpe dove under 280. For the Stormy Petrels, a 5-under 279 is a significant number.

Oglethorpe practices at Royal Lakes Golf Club near Atlanta, a par 71 with a similar layout to Raven. Owen called it a good tuneup for the Golfweek Division III Invitational. Oglethorpe had sent his men out time and time again to bring back a sub-280 team score but there always was a stroke here or a stroke there that barred that feat.

“Everybody was so disappointed we didn’t get our 279,” Owen said of the lead-up to the Golfweek event. The 5-under effort at Raven helped Oglethorpe increase its lead over LaGrange to 10 shots entering the final round.

With the sun high in the sky on Monday afternoon, Oglethorpe players and parents at Raven’s 18th roared cheers first for sophomore Braden Baer, who dropped a 25-footer for bogey to finish his round of 70. When Maccaglia followed with a 10-footer for his sixth and final birdie of the day (also his fourth in a row), the crowd went wild.

“I’ve read a lot of sports psychology books to never give up,” Maccaglia said.

Mental prowess always has been a strength of Maccaglia’s, at least since Owen has known him.

“He is spectacularly mentally tough,” Owen said.

If Maccaglia was Oglethorpe’s most visible leader, then Anthony Amodeo was the quiet one. Amodeo turned in 4-under 31 despite calling a one-shot penalty on himself at No. 5. It was the fifth green he had hit in regulation, and Amodeo faced a birdie putt of 30 feet. He nudged the ball on his setup, however, and assessed himself the extra shot. He then two-putted for bogey.

“It was just like every putt I stood over,” Amodeo said, describing the good feeling he had on the putting greens Monday. Amodeo had 29 putts on the round, including a 30-footer for birdie at No. 6 and a 45-footer for birdie at No. 9.

As Oglethorpe leads the team competition, Maccaglia trails LaGrange junior Cory Howard by one on the individual leaderboard. Howard, the defending champion, posted 5-under 66 at the Raven. Like Maccaglia, it’s his fourth time playing the course in tournament play.

Howard has posted a score lower than 66 in practice, but never in tournament play. This round included a double-bogey at No. 9 and a bogey on No. 13.

“I’d say, not the best ball-striking round I’ve ever had, but I put together ball-striking and putting,” said Howard, who describes himself as 5-foot-10-inches tall before correcting himself by adding half an inch. He weighs 135 pounds, which causes LaGrange head coach Lee Richter to describe him as being built “like a 1-iron.”

Howard and his LaGrange teammates must rally on Tuesday to avoid a repeat of last year’s runner-up finish.

“All these guys have loads of tournament experience and have been in this situation before,” Richter said. “Like we tell them when they get off the bus, give you teammates 100 percent.”

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