Penn State men’s golf coach Greg Nye was probably starting to wonder if his Nittany Lions could ever really recapture that magic of the final round of the Washington Regional at Aldarra Golf Club in Sammamish, Wash. last spring when they surged to a fifth-place finish that earned them a trip to the NCAA Championship at Rich Harvest Farms.
And then Tuesday in the final round of the Colleton River Collegiate at the Colleton River Club’s Dye Course in Bluffton, S.C., there it was again.
There was Ryan Davis, the sophomore from Berkeley Heights, N.J., putting a bad round in the rear-view mirror and firing a 3-under 69 over the 7,198-yard, par-72 Dye Course. There was senior Cole Miller, the Northwestern Lehigh product who claimed the individual regional crown that day in Sammamish, firing a 2-under 70.
There was Charles Huntzinger, the junior from Duluth, Ga., playing like, well Charles Huntzinger, matching Miller’s 2-under 70. And there was junior JD Hughes, the Carlisle product, posting a solid 1-over 73.
It added up to a sparkling 6-under 282, easily the best team round of the tournament. And while it wasn’t nearly enough to catch the impressive winner, Iowa State, No. 80 in the latest Golfstat rankings and probably headed up, it did get the No. 41 Nittany Lions a share of fourth with Big Ten rival Michigan State, ranked 50th, at 32-over 896.
More importantly on a day when the incessant March wind eased a little, Penn State looked like the team that proved it belonged with the big boys a year ago.
And there was one other echo from last spring. Alec Bard, thrust into the lineup at the regional as a freshman, competed as an individual at Colleton River and the sophomore from New Hartford, N.Y., was one of two other players who shared fourth place with Miller in the individual standings at 2-over 218.
Bard’s opening-round 70 and final-round 71 would have given Penn State a runnerup finish in the team standings. But, as I’ve mentioned before, had Bard been playing better than the first five, he would have been in the first five. After two days in Bluffton, he’s knocking on the door again.
When everybody on the team is competing against each other to make that first five, when it comes tournament time, competing becomes second nature.
Play was suspended Monday evening with the second round incomplete. Iowa State returned to the course Tuesday morning and completed a second straight 8-over 296 that probably won the tournament for the Cyclones. Nobody else came close to breaking 300. Penn State, for instance, carded a 311 that left it 22 shots behind Iowa State.
Iowa State matched par in the final round with a 288 for a 16-over 880 total that gave the Cyclones a 13-shot victory.
Miami of Ohio, behind individual champion Brian Ohr, a redshirt junior from Northbrook, Ill., and No. 103 Cincinnati shared second place at 29-over 893. Miami of Ohio matched par in the final round at 288 while Cincinnati fired a 3-under 285, the second-best round of the day behind Penn State.
The Nittany Lions’ sparkling 282 gave them a share of fourth with Michigan State at 896. The Spartans posted a solid 3-over 291 in the final round.
Two more Big Ten entries, No. 147 Rutgers and No. 86 Wisconsin, were next in line, the Red Knights finishing sixth at 905 after a final round of 2-over 290, and the Badgers ending up seventh at 919 after a final round of 10-over 298.
Iowa State was led by the Down Under duo of Lachlan Barker, a freshman from Australia who shared fourth place with Penn State’s Miller and Bard at 2-over 218, and Sam Vincent, a sophomore from New Zealand who finished alone in seventh place at 3-over 219.
Vincent’s 3-under 69 led the way for the Cyclones in the final round while Barker finished up with an even-par 72. Frank Lindwall, a freshman from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, completed a second-round 80 Tuesday morning, but bounced back with a 1-under 71 to finished tied for eighth at 6-over 224.
Tripp Kinney, a sophomore from Waukee, Iowa, finished up with a 76 to end up in the group tied for 15th at 226. Denzel Leremia, a redshirt senior from New Zealand, struggled in the final round with an 82 to finish tied for 39th at 232. But Kinney and Leremia picked up the team in the second round with respective scores of 74 and 73. It was a round spread over two days in which menal toughness might have been the most important club in the bag.
Ohr. like so many other players in the field, stumbled to a 5-over 77 in the second round after opening with a 2-under 70. But he had the best round of the day, a 4-under 68, to capture the individual title as the only player to finish under par at 1-under 215.
Cincinnati had the next two spots in the individual standings with Austin Squires, a junior from Union, Ky., claiming runnerup honors and Andy Mayhew, a redshirt freshman from Dayton, Ohio, finishing third.
Squires carded a 2-under 70 in the final round to end up at even-par 216, a shot behind Ohr. Mayhew was another shot back at 1-over 217 after matching par in the final round with a 72. Mayhew and Iowa State’s Barker were the only players under par in the difficult second round, Mayhew with a 2-under 70 and Barker with a 1-under 71.
Miller’s final round of 2-under 70 came on the heels of a pair of 74s that earned him his share of fourth at 2-over 218. Bard struggled to a 77 in the second round before finishing up with his 1-under 71 to join Miller at 218.
Hughes, who captured the Pennsylvania Amateur title at White Manor Country Club last summer, struggled with rounds of 76 and 77 before finishing up with his 1-over 73 that enabled him to finish in the group tied for 15th at 226.
Davis opened with rounds of 76 and 81, but got back to work with a 3-under 69 that enabled him to join Hughes in the group tied for 15th at 226.
Huntzinger is a much better player than the one who shot 77 and 82 in the first two rounds at Colleton River. He proved that with his final-round 70 that boosted him into a tie for 25th at 229.
Rounding out the Penn State lineup was junior Ryan Dornes, the runnerup in the 2014 Class AAA Championship as a senior at Manheim Township. A 78 Tuesday left Dornes tied for 58th at 237, although his second-round 79 was a counter for the Nittany Lions.
As I mentioned in my post wrapping up Monday’s incomplete double-round, Dornes was playing as well as Miller was at this time last year when an injury ended his season. You have not heard the last from Ryan Dornes.