HOWEY-IN-THE-HILLS, Fla. — The Mission Inn Resort & Club is a favorite of veteran Oglethorpe head coach Jim Owen.
The course has hosted four NCAA Women’s Division III Championships, and 2012 marks the second time the men have contested their championship just north of Orlando, Fla. The NCAA likes it as well, proven by 20 consecutive years of bringing events to this location.
If his golfers continue to play like they did Tuesday, Owen will like the place even more.
Oglethorpe, the 2009 DIII champions, fired an opening round 3-under-par 285 on the Los Colinas layout to lead the 2012 NCAA Men’s D-III Championships by four shots.
The Stormy Petrels got a 4-under-par 68 from freshman Anthony Maccaglia and a 1-under 71 from Hayden Jones, plus a pair of 1-over 73s by Eric Quinn and Matt Rebitch.
“I think (El Campeon) is going to be about 10 strokes different so we are pretty much even right now,” Owen said. “The teams that shot around 300 at El Campeon like Guilford and Texas-Tyler, you have to figure, if they play well, they are going to shoot better (at Los Colinas).”
“We know we can win this thing,” Maccaglia said. “We’ve been playing well and we played well (Tuesday), too.”
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, making its first appearance since 2006, got off to a solid start, shooting 1-over 289 led by Brad Shigezawa’s 4-under 68 on Los Colinas. Jordan Stein finished at even par, while 2010 D-III medalist and 2011 runner-up Tain Lee returned to the course with a round of 74. After a double bogey on No. 4, Stein played his final 14 holes in 3-under.
Christopher Newport opened the week with a solid 2-over 290, getting a 2-under round from Brian Jaeger.
Most of DIII’s top teams played the 7230-yard Los Colinas in Tuesday’s first round. Defending champion Greensboro shot 8-over 296, getting a pair of 1-over rounds from Nick Peoples and Joshua Hudgins.
Methodist, in search of an eleventh championship, shot a 3-over 291 on the first day. Mike Wesko and Andrew Bateman each shot 70 but Mike Duncan, Robby Bruns and Dakun Chang combined to shoot 12-over.
Redlands (7-over, 295), Illinois Wesleyan (11-over, 299) and LaGrange (299) also started the week on Los Colinas.
The top score on the par-72 El Campeon layout, the course for the final 36 holes after the field is cut to 15 following Wednesday’s second round, was Texas-Tyler’s 12-over 300.
The Patriots’ Jacob Walsh and Matt Stephens each shot 74 with Joey Rippel turning in a 75.
“We got off to a good start,” Tyler coach King Campbell said. “No. 3 thru 8 (on El Campeon) are very difficult and I thought we held it together pretty well. We had some struggles on No. 17 which kind of put a damper on the round.
“But overall I am very pleased. El Campeon is probably six to eight strokes harder, so we didn’t play ourselves out of it.”
How tough was El Campeon on the first day? D-III’s top-rated Noah Ratner of Guilford had five bogeys on his first nine and eventually finished at 6-over 78, failing to record a birdie.
Guilford, the 2002 and 2005 champions, also shot 300 on El Campeon, getting a team-best 73 from Andrew Thompson. Gustavus Adolphus got a pair of even par rounds in shooting 301 with St. Thomas (Minn.) finishing the first day at 302.
Transylvania, ranked fourth entering the week, struggled to a 20-over 308, with No. 6 LaVerne also coming in at 20-over.
The field will be cut to 15 after Wednesday’s play. Nebraska Wesleyan, the 2006 champions, sit in 15th after Tuesday’s 17-over 305. Twelve teams are within 10 strokes of Wesleyan, including California Lutheran, who shot 25-over on El Campeon on the first day.
The top teams take their shot at El Campeon on Wednesday.
“I really feel like the front nine (at El Campeon) is one of the best stretches of holes in college golf,” Owen said.