ATHENS, Ga. – Two-time defending national champions Augusta State put itself in the middle of a one-day, seven-team shootout for one spot in the NCAA Athens regional.
Augusta State shot a collective 12-over 296 on Friday in windy conditions at the University of Georgia Golf Course, falling to 10th place in the 13-team regional that will send only the top five teams to the NCAA Championships next month at Riviera Country Club.
The Jaguars are a combined 11-over 579 after 36 holes of the 54-hole qualifying event, four shots behind New Mexico in the all-important fifth spot. There are seven teams within four shots of each other vying for that last spot. Only four teams, including regional host Georgia, are par or better through 36 holes. The Bulldogs sit in fourth at even par 568, seven spots ahead of No. 5 New Mexico.
“I counted eight teams for one spot,” said first-year Augusta State head coach Kevin McPherson. “It’s going to be fun. We’re going to be right there in it. Whether we’re three or four shots back of that fifth-place spot, you’re talking about one swing a player, one shot a player. It’s very minimal. Obviously we’d like to be one of those few teams that have got a big cushion, but these guys have done well under pressure in the past and this year. We’re just going to come out, play our game and add it up at the end and see what happens.”
With the UGA Golf Course showing its teeth in windier conditions, the Jaguars once again got off to a disappointing start. Unlike Thursday’s opening round, they couldn’t reverse the slide playing the more difficult front side last.
“The wind blew a little today and the pin placements were pretty tough,” said McPherson. “All the guys were hanging in there today. We didn’t have a 67 or 70 like we did yesterday, and that was the biggest difference for us not having that difference-maker of somebody coming in there in the 60s.”
Derek Chang, whose 10-over 81 on Thursday was thrown out, paced the way Friday with a 2-over 73 as none of the Jaguars broke par.
Taylor Floyd and Robin Petersson both shot 74 and Brendan Gillins shot 75 after lipping out a birdie putt on the last hole.
The good news is that the all-important fifth spot slid somewhat with them, with New Mexico holding the last NCAA finals qualifying spot at 7-over. UNC-Wilmington sits in sixth at 9-over while Wake Forest, Houston and Long Beach State all are tied at 10-over, one shot in front of Augusta State and Iowa.
“The biggest thing you don’t want to do is think about seven teams for one spot,” said Chang. “That’s putting way too much pressure on yourself. I’d really like to have a laid-back attitude about it. If each of us does a good job of taking care of what we need to, in the end the results will take care of themselves and hopefully we’ll end up with that one spot.”
Alabama continued to run away from everybody at 20-under. North Florida and East Carolina are comfortably tied for second at 8-under.