Penn State, coming off one of the stronger seasons in program history, struggled a little out of the gate for the 2017-2018 season as the Nittany Lions finished 13th out of 16 teams in The Gopher Invitational, which concluded Monday at the Windsong Farm Golf Club in Independence, Minn.
The Nittany Lions never recovered from an opening round of 17-over-par 301 Sunday over the 7,388-yard, par-71 Windsong Farm layout. The Gopher was scheduled for a double-round Sunday, but darkness halted play before the second round was completed.
Penn State rebounded for a solid 5-over 289 in the middle round before a final round of 9-over 293 Monday left the Nittany Lions alone in 13th place at 31-over 883.
Arkansas, out of the Southeast Conference, grabbed the team lead midway through the second round and did not let go. The Razorbacks finished up with a strong 5-under 279 and Arkansas was the only team in a talented field to finish under par for the tournament at 4-under 848. The Razorbacks were 10 shots clear of the field.
A couple of Big 12 teams, Baylor and reigning national champion Oklahoma, finished second and third, with respective totals of 6-over 858 and 859. Baylor posted a final round of 4-over 288 while the Sooners finished up with a 2-over 286. The Bears and the Sooners were two of the three Big 12 teams – Oklahoma State being the other – who were among the last eight standing for match play in the NCAA Championship at Rich Harvest Farms last spring.
Rounding out the top five were a couple of teams out of mid-major conferences.
Kent State, led by individual winner Ian Holt, a senior from Stow, Ohio, had the best round of the tournament, an 8-under 276, in the final round to finish fourth at 8-over 860. Pepperdine had a final round of 1-under 283 to finish fifth at 14-over 866.
Kent State, champion of the Mid-American Conference, and Pepperdine, the West Coast Conference runnerup, both advanced out of the NCAA regionals to the NCAA Championship at Rich Harvest Farms.
Penn State was led by senior Cole Miller, a former Northwestern Lehigh standout who won the individual title in the NCAA Washington Regional last spring. Miller added a final-round 74 to rounds of 72 and 73 to finish tied for 28th at 6-over 219. Miller’s showing in the Washington Regional helped send Penn State to Rich Harvest Farms as well.
Charles Huntzinger, a junior from Duluth, Ga., put together a strong 2-under 69 in the middle round before finishing up with a 4-over 75 that left him tied for 42nd at 8-over 221.
Penn State got three solid finishing rounds of 2-over 73 out of junior JD Hughes, who starred scholastically at Carlisle and won the Pennsylvania Amateur at White Manor Country Club this summer, Alec Bard, a sophomore from New Hartford, N.Y., and junior Ryan Dornes, a Manheim Township product. Hughes finished tied for 46th at 9-over 222, Bard finished tied for 51st at 10-over 223 and Dornes ended up at 11-over 224 and tied for 58th.
Arkansas had pair of players finish among the top five. Mason Overstreet, a sophomore from Kingfisher, Okla., was the runnerup to Holt at 7-under 206. After opening with a 1-over 72, Overstreet carded back-to-back 67s.
Teammate Alvaro Ortiz, a senior from Mexico, was one of three players who finished tied for fifth at 1-under 212. Ortiz moved up into the top five on the strength of a 3-under 68 in the final round.
The Razorbacks also got a sub-par final round from William Buhl, a sophomore from Fairhope, Ala. who finished up with a 1-under 70 and ended up tied for 13th at 3-over 216.
Rounding out the winning effort for Arkansas were Charles Kim, a junior from Cedar Park, Texas who finished tied for 31st at 220 after a final-round 74 and Luis Garza, a sophomore from Mexico who finished 67th at 227 after a final-round 79. Garza, though, did contribute a 2-under 69 to the Razorbacks’ even-par 284 in the opening round.
After opening with a 1-under 70, Kent State’s Holt fired sizzling rounds of 67 and 66 for a 10-under 203 total that gave him a three-shot margin of victory over Overstreet.
Pepperdine’s Sahith Theegala, a talented junior from Chino Hills, Calif., finished alone in third at 6-under 207 after posting a final round of 2-under 69. Arizona State’s Alex Del Rey Gonzalez, a sophomore from Spain, was another shot behind Theegala in fourth at 5-under 208 after a final round of 1-under 70.
Joining Arkansas’ Ortiz in the group that finished tied for fifth at 1-under 212 were Virginia Tech’s Mark Lawrence, a junior from Richmond, Va. coming off a stirring run to the U.S. Amateur semifinals at Riviera Country Club, and Baylor’s Matthew Perrine, a senior from Austin, Texas. Lawrence and Perrine each matched par with a 71 in the final round.