ATHENS, Ga. – Two-time defending national champions Augusta State rallied from a rough start to put itself back in the hunt at the NCAA Athens regional on Thursday at University of Georgia Golf Course.
Taylor Floyd shot a 4-under 67 and Brendan Gillins shot 70 to pace the Jaguars to a 1-under finish after the opening round of the 54-hole qualifying event. Augusta State is seventh out of the 13 teams in the regional but only one shot out of fifth place. The top five teams will advance to the NCAA Championships next month at Riviera Country Club.
“I kind of have a bad habit of looking at the scoreboards and I made the turn at 1-under and saw that we were struggling and almost in last,” Floyd said. “It doesn’t really change the way I play but it was definitely a little motivation to go make some birdies.”
Augusta State picked it up starting with birdies by Gillins and Floyd on the ninth hole to provide a spark. Floyd, Gillins and Robin Petersson posted back-to-back birdies on the back and Alex Wennstam made birdies on 16 and 18 to finish with a 73.
“The team got off to a rocky start,” said first-year head coach Kevin McPherson. “We were 5-over after three holes and that was a little shocking. But we woke up, especially on the back nine, and played 6-udner from there in for the counting scores. Kind of rallied a little bit and kept moving up the board. Hopefully we’ll start off tomorrow a little stronger.”
A couple of stumbles at the finish kept the Jaguars from being tied with last year’s NCAA runner-up Georgia in fourth place. Petersson had fought back to even par with three birdies on the back nine before leaving himself in a bad spot behind the 18th green and making double bogey.
Gillins, who was the lone bright spot early for the Jags, made bogeys on 15 and 18 to finish 1-under 70.
“I think we had a bad day for us,” said Gillins. “I should have finished better. But if this is as bad as it gets, we’ll be fine.”
Augusta State’s struggles were in strong contrast to the red numbers that team leaders Alabama (15-uunder) and North Florida (12-under) were throwing up on the UGA Golf Course. But those team showed that there are good scores out there and the Jaguars just need to be more balanced the remaining two rounds to try to book a trip to Riviera.
East Carolina is in third place at 8-under with Georgia in fourth at 4-under. Houston and UNC Wilmington are tied for fifth at 2-under just a shot ahead of Augusta State.
“Taylor and Brendan played very solid again today and if we get a couple more good scores in there we’ll certainly have a chance to head out to L.A.,” said McPherson.