Photo Courtesy: UA Athletics (Walt Beazley)
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (Univ. of Ark.) - A trio of University of Arkansas men's golfers shot even par on Thursday during the first round of the NCAA Fayetteville Regional at Blessings to lead the No. 12 Razorbacks to fifth place after 18 holes of competition. Senior Austin Cook, junior Sebastian Cappelen and freshman Taylor Moore are each tied for 11th individually as they look to lead the Razorbacks back to the NCAA Championship.
The Razorbacks had an up-and-down day on the course, struggling early, correcting their errors, struggling again, before playing the final three holes at seven-under par collectively. The Razorbacks were as low as 12th in the team standings midway through the round before battling back to fifth.
"It was a bit of a roller coaster today," Arkansas head coach Brad McMakin said. "We grinded it out and got back to two-over par as a team and are right back in the mix. Illinois had a tremendous day, but we are still just eight strokes back with 36 holes left and on this course you can make that up if you play smart and avoid mistakes. We counted two triple and two double bogeys today which is unlike us, yet we are still in position to make it to the national championship, so I feel pretty good overall."
Illinois entered the clubhouse as the team leader, shooting an astounding six-under par as a team. Charlie Danielson led the way for the Illini with a score of seven-under par individually to put himself atop the leaderboard. No. 4 Texas shot three-under par as a team followed by No. 16 Oklahoma State at two-under and No. 28 Kent State at even par. Colorado is two strokes behind the Razorbacks in sixth place.
Playing in his first NCAA Regional, Moore shook off early nerves to shoot Arkansas' most consistent round. The Edmond, Okla., native was one-under par as he made the turn with birdies on two of the three par fives on the front side. He played the back at one-over par with another birdie on a par five. On the five par fives, Moore was three-under par for the day matching the third best score for the longest holes.
The elder statesman of the group, Cook was two-over par through three holes, but found his stroke at No. 8, a hole that began a string of three straight birdies and four birdies over five holes to move to two-under par. No. 13 got the best of Cook as he marked a triple bogey on the par four and another bogey on No. 15 had his score up to two-over par. Cook came back with a fantastic eagle on the par five 16th to get back to even par and sank a pair of par putts to end his round.
The even rounds of par continued with Cappelen who sank a pair of birdies over his final three holes to also get back to even par. One-over par at the turn, Cappelen carded three bogeys and two birdies over the opening nine holes. The Dane sank a birdie on No. 11 to get back to even, but an errant tee shot on No. 13 put his ball between trees and led to a double bogey on the hole. Undeterred by the setback, Cappelen sank birdie putts on No. 16 and No. 17 to close the round.
Sophomore Thomas Sorensen was on his way to a high score midway through the day, but battled back to make four birdies over the final seven holes to shoot two-over par and notch Arkansas' final scoring position. A triple bogey on the par five, ninth was followed by a bogey on No. 10 and a double bogey on No. 11 putting him at six-over par. He then sank back-to-back-to-back birdies on No. 12, No. 13 and No. 14, then another birdie on No. 16 to drop his score and finished the round with a pair of pars.
Arkansas' fifth player on Thursday was freshman Nicolas Echavarria who also battled some nerves but ended strong to post a score of four-over par. Seven pars and two bogeys on the front nine gave Echavarria a score of two-over par at the turn. His score increased to six-over par after a pair of bogeys to start the back nine and a double bogey on No. 14. Back-to-back birdies on No. 15 and No. 16 were followed by two pars and he concluded his round at 76, four-over par.
The Razorbacks continue play at the NCAA Fayetteville Regional on Friday at 8:20 a.m. from the first tee. Arkansas plays with Kent State and Colorado during the second round as it attempts to solidify its place among the top five teams and earn a spot at the NCAA Championship.