CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – Just in case Jesper Kennegard and his Arizona State teammates forgot about the Sun Devils’ NCAA championship at The Honors Course in 1996, coach Randy Lein has spent plenty of time reminding them.
“Since the fall he’s been saying, ‘We have something good going on here’ and ‘I want to do what we did in ’96,”’ Kennegard said. “So yeah, he’s been saying that a lot to us. We’re kind of making fun of it now, but we’re getting a good start anyway.”
After the first round of play at the NCAA Division I men’s golf championship on Tuesday, Kennegard was off to an especially good start, shooting a 4-under-par 68, putting him in a first-place tie with Augusta State’s Henrik Norlander in the individual competition. Oklahoma State and Florida State shared the team lead at 5-under.
The challenging par-72, 7,395-yard course was made softer and more forgiving by weekend rains and calm, overcast weather. That gave several competitors among the 156-man field a shot at beating the course record 5-under-par 67, first shot by Tiger Woods en route to his NCAA individual title in 1996 while at Stanford.
Despite the addition of 356 yards since the 1996 tournament at The Honors Course, four teams beat the previous low round score of 286. The 5-under 283 shot by the Cowboys and Seminoles set the new record.
“It’s a hard, hard golf course but there’s absolutely nothing that made it harder to play today,” Oklahoma State coach Mike McGraw said. “It was just dead calm and you had a little bit of moisture to keep the greens from being too slick.”
Clemson’s Luke Hopkins was 5-under after 17 holes but hit into a bunker on the 18th and two-putted to end the round with a double bogey, costing the Tigers a share of second place in the team competition and putting him into a 10-way tie for third. Florida State’s Seath Lauer bogeyed on the same hole to also finish with a 69.
“I just tried to hit it up on the fairway and hit a good shot but unfortunately missed the fairway by a couple of yards,” Hopkins said. “I hit it into the bunker and it was kind of a downward spiral from there.”
The tournament is being played under a combination stroke and match play format for a second season. All 30 qualifying teams and an additional six individual players are competing in three days of stroke play, and those 54 holes will determine the individual medalist and will cut the field to a final eight teams for three days of match play.
Oklahoma State’s Peter Uihlein hit a birdie putt on the final hole to for a 69. The Cowboys came out of stroke play in last year’s tournament leading the field but were upset in the first day of match play.
That quarterfinals loss doesn’t appear to have left Oklahoma State with any less confidence this year.
“A lot of guys psych themselves out with this being a national championship,” Uihlein said. “That’s just kind of our motto. That’s how Oklahoma State’s always been. If we just stay patient and play our own game, I think we’ll be OK.”
Oregon was third with 284 strokes, followed by Texas A&M with 285; Arizona State and Clemson with 286; and Florida and Augusta State with 287.