CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – Neither heavy downpour nor a double bogey got in the way of San Diego’s Alex Ching.
He’s learned a thing or two since his last time in the NCAA Division I men’s golf tournament.
“If you take one minute off your shot or take one minute off thinking about what you’re doing, it can jump up and get you,” Ching said. “I went into today thinking about every shot and keeping my mind in the present, and I hit pretty good shots around the green.
“I was just thinking, ‘Don’t screw up like last year.”’
Ching felt the butterflies in his stomach as he stepped up to the 545-yard, par-5 17th hole, halfway through his round at The Honors Course. After hitting it in the middle of the fairway flanked by water to the left and thick trees to the right, he dropped the ball onto the green 6 feet from the hole and made the putt for a birdie—one of eight for the round that helped him tie the course single-round record.
“You get in the zone and you make a birdie or two, from there, if you watch him putt you think every single putt’s going to go in,” San Diego coach Tim Mickelson said.
Ching shot a 6-under 66 for a 9-under 135 total, two strokes ahead of Augusta State’s Henrik Norlander (69) and Oklahoma State’s Peter Uihlein (68). Illinois’ Scott Langley also was tied for second, but had one final hole to play before darkness suspended play.
A year ago, Ching was of to a strong start with a 5 under through 10 holes in the second round before rain and darkness interrupted his play. He finished that round the next day with a 68 only to follow it up with a disappointing 76 to drop well out of the race for the individual title.
Heavy rain and lightning prompted a two-hour delay in play during the afternoon and kept 33 players from finishing the second round before dark. Play will resume early Thursday morning, with the third round to follow.
The individual title will then be awarded while the top eight teams will advance to three rounds of match play.
Florida State took a commanding advantage in the team competition after each player whose scores counted at the end of the day shot under par. The Seminoles were at 14-under 562 after shooting 9 under in the second round.
Senior Seath Lauer said the Seminoles, who finished their round in the early afternoon before the delay, were the most relaxed team out on the course. The team drew their inspiration from Wesley Graham, whose 71 was dropped as the team’s high score of the day. Graham followed a double-bogey performance in the first round with five-straight birdies to open the second.
“Nobody’s uptight, which is great, and I think it’s the way you have to handle this,” Lauer said. “I think a lot of times people look too much into it being the national championship, and we’re just taking it as another round of golf.”
Oklahoma State was second at 567, followed by Georgia Tech (572), Augusta State (575), Florida (576), San Diego (576), Washington (577) and Clemson (577).
Lauer knows the gap between Florida State and the rest of the field will help the Seminoles relax even more on Thursday.
“Obviously if we were in eighth or ninth we’d probably be a little more nervous coming in, but the team’s playing well and I think we really want to play a good round tomorrow and show everybody what we’re capable of,” he said.