May 18, 2010

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Sidebar: Tim Poe

By Mike Beas
Special to NCAA.com

Noblesville, Ind. - Low-hanging gray clouds served as the ceiling to the first day of competition at the NCAA Division II Men's Golf Championships, though any intimidation factor they could muster proved no match for the collective focus of 12th-ranked Nova Southeastern.

Playing in temperatures in the 50s and dotted with the occasional raindrop, the Sharks, making only their second trip to the finals in the program's history, shot 299 at unforgiving Sagamore Golf Club to hold a four-stroke advantage over 11-time national titlist Florida Southern.

Still in contention with three rounds of golf to play and weather conditions expected to improve are Ferris State (305), CSU-Chico (307), Queens, N.C. (309), CSU-Monterey (310), Central Missouri (311), Cameron (312), Lynn (313), defending champion Sonoma State (313), Western New Mexico (314), Barry (314), Ohio Valley (315), Indiana, Pa. (315) and Bellarmine (317).

Its campus located just west of Fort Lauderdale, Nova Southeastern, home to the 2009 and 2010 national champs in women's golf, had all five of its players break 80 as sophomore Ben Vertz led the way, posting the day's best individual score with an even-par 72. Senior No. 3 player Byron White finished with a 75, while Bobby Bode and Peter Kolosvary each had a 76.

Jokingly asked if his program was sandbagging given that No. 12 rating nationally, sixth-year Sharks coach Kevin Marsh smiled.

"Every team is here for a reason. Looking at the conditions, it surprised me how difficult some of the pin placements were, so anything under 300 we would have taken," said Marsh, who serves the same role for the school's women's program. "I think our women's team playing well has given the guys some confidence. They see what we're doing is working."

While Nova Southeastern is in the process of constructing a national reputation, second-place Florida Southern did so years ago. Standards are nosebleed high within the Mocs' program, which is why coach Doug Gordin wasn't thrilled with his squad's score of 303.

"I know we should play better, so I can't say I'm pleased with the score. Under these conditions, a 295 or 296 is a good score out here," said Gordin, who led Florida Southern to national championships in 1991, '98, '99 and 2000. "The weather is not ideal, but that didn't bother our guys. Golf is an outdoor sport, and it's the same for everyone."

Gordin was pleased with the performances of his Nos. 3 and 5 golfers, Shelton Smith and Peter Creighton, who carded a 74 and 75, respectively, to go along with Matt Stauch's 76, a 78 from Eustaquio Jude and Danny Evelyn's 79.

"They both played well in terms of their role," said Gordin. "Peter shot 75 with a triple (bogey), so that shows how many good holes he played today."

While not at the front of the pack, the seventh-place standing by the Mules of Central Missouri is solid considering the school's best finish in Tim Poe's previous 20 years as coach was 10th in 1994. Leading the way Tuesday was No. 1 player Justin Yoder with a 73 and No. 2 Matt Miller posting a score of 78.

"A 311 is not as good as we hoped, but we're not out of it. All the teams shot pretty high, so when you look at the rest of the scores, it's not bad, I guess," said Poe. "Coming in I really felt like we have a good chance here. To me, this golf course is set up for a team that hit's a lot of fairways and has a pretty good short game."

Sagamore Golf Club in good weather is a 7,173-yard lesson in forced concentration. Thus, players had their work cut out on Tuesday in an effort to start strong at the season's most-important venue.

"With the conditions and setup of the golf course, yeah, it's a tough day. They set it up as long as they could and there weren't any easy pins," said Lynn coach Chris Greenwood. "With the weather forecast I thought they might set it up a little easier, but that might be my wishful thinking."

"Wish the weather conditions like they were, you thought the course would be set up easier," added Carlos Velez of Barry, who finished with a 5-over 77. "But it was fun out there. It was a tough test."