PLYMOUTH, Ind. — Walters State’s golf team entered the 2019 NJCAA Division II Golf National Championships ranked ninth in the nation in the final rankings, but the Senators put together on of their most solid rounds of the season in taking the lead at the national tournament after the opening day.
Following a nearly three-hour rain delay at The Swan Lake Resort’s par-72 Black Course, the tournament ran until it was too dark to complete the opening 18 holes, and Walters State led powerhouse and No. 1 ranked South Mountain by two shots after a chilly opening trek.
Walters State posted a team score of 9-over par 297, besting South Mountain’s 299. Kirkwood was third among the teams to finish on the day, carding a 308, followed by Mississippi Gulf Coast (310) and Parkland (311) in the top 10. Des Moines Area was sixth at 313, followed by Murray State (313), Meridian (317), Tyler (318) and Grand Rapids (326) in rounding out the top 10. Southeast Nebraska was 11th at 328 and Southern Maryland was 12th at 347. Lake County, Bucks County, Oakland, Abraham Baldwin, Southwestern, Rend Lake, Black Hawk, Scottsdale and Mott all could not finish before darkness set in.
Alex Hodge and Dane Rheinecker both fired a 1-over par 73 on the day to pace the Senators, putting both in a tie for fourth place on the individual scoreboard.
Hodge notched eight pars and a birdie on the 512-yard par-5 15th hole to put him at 1-under par 35 making the turn to the front nine, and he birdied the 361-yard par-4 opening hole to get to 2-under par. Bogey on the third, fifth and ninth holes coming in put him at 1-over for the day.
Rheinecker birdied the 418-yard par-4 10th hole to open his round, and a bogey on 12 before a birdie on the 186-yard par-3 13th hole kept him at 1-under through the 16th before four bogeys in six holes put him at 3-over par on the fourth tee. After a par on that hole, he birdied the 405-yard par-4 sixth and the 433-yard par-4 ninth to get back to 73.
Morristown East graduate Hunter Blanken fired a 3-over par 75 to put him in a tie for 12th place at the end of the opening day, while Andrew Linkous was one shot back at 4-over par 76 in a tie for 17th place.
Blanken carded a 1-over par 37 on the front nine, notching eight pars and a bogey on the 155-yard par-3 second hole. He shot 38 on the back side of the course, his first nine of the day, recording four bogeys, four pars and an eagle on the 15th hole.
Linkous shot 38 on both nines, as he bogeyed the 12th hole before notching a birdie on the 13th hole to put him at even par through four holes, but bogeys on four holes in a six-hole stretch making the turn before a birdie on the 509-yard par-5 fifth hole and a bogey coming in put him at 76.
Stephen Owen carded an opening 14-over par 86. Owen shot 43 on both nines, recording one birdie on the 172-yard par-3 eighth hole.
Meridian’s Will Kidder, Mississippi Gulf Coast’s Brice Wilkinson and Kirkwood’s Ben Epperly are all tied for first place individually after they all fired an even par 72 on the day.
The first round of the tournament will conclude Wednesday morning with the second round of the 72-hole event scheduled to begin immediately following the conclusion of the first round.