DAUFUSKIE ISLAND, S.C. -- Augusta State's golf team didn't do anything spectacular in Thursday's first round of the NCAA East Regional. But the Jaguars didn't do anything to hurt their chances of advancing to the NCAA Championships either.
Augusta, seeking its first trip to the NCAAs since 1995, shot a 2-over-par 290 in Thursday's first round at The Melrose Golf Club to place ninth. After 54 holes, the top 11 teams of the 23 in the field will advance to the NCAAs later this month in Albuquerque, N.M.
"Even par (288) is pretty good on this course and we weren't too far from that," Augusta State coach Jim Kelson said. "I think we played pretty good, but we didn't putt particularly well."
Though eight teams are ahead of Augusta, the Jags are only six shots out of second place. They're 10 behind the leader, Clemson, which counted a 3-under-par 69 by Augusta freshman John Engler.
"With the field as tight as it is, the most important thing is not to shoot yourself out of it in the first round," said Kelson. "At least we're in position where we're still in the hunt, so to speak."
Sophomore John Wells of East Yorkshire, England, led Augusta with a 69. Vaughn Taylor shot 72, Chris Roake 74, Robert Duck 75 and Jeff Keck 76. The teams played five men and counted the low four scores.
"John is the Larry Bird of the team because he wants to perform in the clutch," Kelson said of Wells, who averages 73.45. "He certainly lived up to that billing today. All parts of his game are solid. He's the straightest driver of the ball that I've ever coached."
Duck, a freshman who has the second-lowest stroke average on the team (72.0) was one over par going to the 18th hole, but made double bogey and had to settle for the 75.
"He hit his second shot in the bunker, had a bad lie and hit it over the green," Kelson said. "It was an unfortunate break. But that's all right. We've been riding him pretty hard."
Clemson shot 280 to lead Florida and Georgia Tech by four shots. The University of Georgia and Southeastern Louisiana are five back.
Georgia Tech sophomore Matt Kuchar, who tied for 21th place in last month's Masters Tournament, is the individual leader after a 64.