May 11, 2010

By Todd Karpovich
Special to NCAA.com

Hershey, Pa. - A heavy rain wreaked havoc for many of the golfers in the first round of NCAA Division III men's golf championships in Hershey, Pa., on Tuesday, but No. 3 Skidmore (Saratoga Springs, N.Y.) was unfazed by the deteriorating conditions.

The tournament-experienced Thoroughbreds, who are playing in their 24th consecutive national championship, suffered through worse weather throughout their regular season and took control of the tournament with a solid first round. Skidmore finished with a 295 strokes, ahead of second-place Franklin & Marshall (298), Otterbein (300), Greensboro (301) and Guilford (303).

Skidmore coach David Bakyta said one of the keys was adjusting to the greens at Hershey Links, which got slower as the rain persisted.

"It was really tough conditions, but the guys played really gritty golf," Bakyta said. "We have a great mix of junior and seniors who have experience. We are a northern team and this kind of played into our wheel-house. We've been playing in this all year. In a way, we were kind of hoping for tough conditions."

Claremont Mudd Scripps' (Claremont, Calif.) Tain Lee finished with a 2-under-par 69 strokes to lead the individual competition. Franklin & Marshall's Jeremy Rubin was at minus-1. Skidmore's Brendan Singleton and Andrew Townsend of Central College (Pella, Iowa) finished at even-par and were tied for third.

"The course is playing tough and I just started to roll in some putts and things started to go my way," Rubin said. "On the back, the wind started to pick and I didn't hit as many fairways. It got harder to hit the greens and scores were going up. I don't know Tain, but I hear he is pretty good."

Many of the traditional powers struggled with the wind and steady rain in the later part of the afternoon at the Hershey Country Club and Hershey Links courses. Franklin & Marshall (Lancaster, Pa.) was the first team to tee off at 8:20 a.m. and played through windy conditions, but managed to beat the rain.

Franklin & Marshall was minus-6 on the front nine, but finished 10-over-par with a score of 298 at the end of the first round. The team was penalized four strokes because one of their players had an extra club in his bag.

"On the back nine, there was just a lot more wind," Franklin & Marshall coach Andy Tompos said. "The temperature also dramatically dropped. Our goal is always to make the cut. If we have a top 10 finish, then that is great."

Top-ranked Methodist (Fayetteville, N.C.) got off to a slow start, ending the day in 12th place with a score of 307. Oglethorpe (Atlanta), the defending national champions, finished the opening round tied for eighth at 307. And second-ranked Huntington (Huntington, Ind.), appearing in its sixth consecutive NCAA tournament from the Great South Athletic Conference, finished tied for 15th at 309.

Franklin & Marshall, which is won its third Centennial Conference championship in the past four years, was the most impressive among the day's early starters. Rubin was the leader through nine holes at minus-3. Teammate Cameron Warner was tied for second with Lee at minus-2 after the front nine.

But for now, Skidmore, winners of the Liberty League, is in the driver's seat.

"We know we are a top three team and our goal is really just to play well," Bakyta said. "We're not putting anything specific except for the guys to play good golf. And the guys are doing it."