May 19, 2010

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By Mike Beas
Special to NCAA.com

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. - Think of leading ground gainers, and one's mind instantly shifts to football. However, no fewer than 10 programs proved rather convincingly Wednesday that such terminology also applies to golf.

Making the loudest statement among the movers and shakers at the NCAA Division II Men's Golf Championships was Florida Southern, whose second-round team total of 7-over-par 295 was an 11-stroke improvement from Tuesday's first round and enough to slide into the top spot in the standings at 595.

Propelled by the play of Matt Stauch's 1-under 71, Jude Eustaquio's 72 and Shelton Smith's 74 at 7,173-yard Sagamore Golf Club, the Mocs positioned themselves nicely for a 12th national title with two days of competition remaining. Florida Southern now holds a nine-shot advantage over defending champion Sonoma State and Nova Southeastern, both squads taking 36-hole totals of 604 into Thursday's third round.

Overall, 16 of the 20 teams and 63 of the 106 golfers improved their scores. Chico State, for instance, vaulted into contention with a 298 second day to stand fourth at 605. Kyle Souza's 2-under 70 and Sylvester Gama's 73 led the charge for the Wildcats, who, according to coach Travis Brown, still could have been better.

"I know for certain we played holes 15 through 18 better," Brown said.

"I still feel we've given too many shots away down the stretch, especially on Tuesday. Our goal is to have a shot after three rounds of play."

Sonoma State displayed tremendous resolve in shaving 22 shots off its opening-round 313 with Wednesday's 291. Not only did No. 5 player Alex Marry not compete due to a stomach virus, but some of his teammates were affected as well. No one would know from the scores, with Patrick Bauer posting a second straight 74, Jeremy Wendelken shooting 1-under 71, Janssen Todd carding a 72 and Ryan Carter finishing with a 74.

Meanwhile, tournament pace-setter Nova Southeastern followed its opening-round 299 with a 305 to remain in the race.

"Ball-striking-wise, we weren't as sharp as the day before, but from a team standpoint I think we'll be right there," said Peter Kolosvary, the Sharks' No. 4 player, who has shot 76 both days. "A 305 isn't what we wanted, but it doesn't take us out of it. Hopefully we can put two good rounds together, and we'll count them up on Friday." Another program looking to remain in contention is Western New Mexico, owner of a 294 second round and good enough to place the Mustangs fifth overall with a two-day total of 608. Gordon Webb showed the way with a 72, followed by Scott Crichton's 75 and Steven Maxwell's 76.

Fifteen players finished the second round even par or lower, a drastic improvement over Tuesday, when only Nova Southeastern's Ben Vertz could make that claim with his 72. Best of the best Wednesday was a course-record-tying 68 from Abilene Christian junior Cyril Bouniol, whose two-day 144 ties him for second individually with Souza one shot behind leader Ben Lasso of Queen's (N.C.).

Throughout first-round action, coaches and players alike grumbled under their breath about how the difficult pin placements were unnecessary given the wetness of the course from recent rain. Such wasn't the case this time around.

"Definitely the weather was way better than (Tuesday), and pin positions were more accessible," said Barry junior Guillermo Pumarol, who followed a first-round 81 with Wednesday's 79. "You can tell by the scores."

Thursday's play starts at 7:30 a.m., with clubhouse leader Florida Southern occupying tee times between 12:50 and 1:30 p.m.