May 11, 2010

By Todd Karpovich
Special to

Hershey, Pa. - The opening of the first round of the Division III NCAA men's golf championship was delayed 80 minutes because of frost, which meant the golfers teed off at 8:20 a.m. instead of the scheduled 7 a.m. start.

The day was mostly overcast and a steady rain began to fall around 1:45 p.m. Temperatures hovered around 50 degrees and the weather forecast called for more rain the rest of the week.

At least one team was hoping the weather did not warm up. Johnson &Wales (Rhode Island) has been playing in colder conditions all season, and coach Lou Parente was looking for any type of advantage with such a talented field. Johnson & Wales qualified for the tournament by winning its fourth consecutive Great Northeast Athletic Conference championship.

"(Hershey Links) is a great course and it's going to have some pretty good scores here," said Parente. "At Hershey Country Club, it's a little bit tighter and a little smaller. We're hoping for rain. That's all we play in during the spring in New England. It's no surprise to us. We're not fazed by it and it's not going to be a problem."

Skidmore had 295 strokes to lead after the first day of competition. Franklin & Marshall (298) was second and Otterbein (300) was third.

During the early part of the day when the ground stayed dry, the biggest challenge was trying to stay warm. As the day progressed and the wind picked up, many players struggled to stay in the fairway and reach the green. The conditions continued to deteriorate in the early afternoon and the rain persisted through the rest of the first round.

The NCAA does not have a set policy for handling a weather delay, according Jim Miller, the media coordinator for the event and sports information director at Elizabethtown.

"They have the latitude to make a decision that they see fit," he said. "If it's only a few players affected, they could bring them back the next morning to finish their round. If it's more significant, they'll have to make some rulings. There are no set criteria for a weather delay."

Said Elizabethtown athletic director Nancy Latimore: "The weather is the one thing you can't control," Latimore said. "You just can't plan for it."

VOLUNTEERS?: Elizabethtown College is hosting the event, which is a mere par-5 away from the area's big amusement park, for the firs time. The tournament is taking place on two courses - the Hershey Country Club and the Hershey Links.

Latimore said the most challenging part of hosting 190 golfers from 37 schools was securing volunteers and hoping the weather cooperated.

"It's always a challenge to put on a national championship and to do it at two different venues is especially challenging," Latimore said. "For the golf championship, to recruit and organize an army of volunteers is especially a challenge. With team sports, you don't need nearly as many people. We had to find people available Tuesday through Friday, but it has all worked out for us."

CLOSE TO HOME: Messiah (Grantham, Pa.), had the shortest trip to the tournament, about a 25-minute bus ride. Three other Pennsylvania schools - Franklin & Marshall, Penn State Behrend and Keystone - that got to play for the title in their home state.

"We know both of those courses very well," said Franklin & Marshall coach Andy Tompos, whose school is 40 minutes from the venue. "We actually won two tournaments at the Hershey Links course."

ETC.: The University of La Verne team (La Verne, Calif.) traveled the furthest of all the participating teams - 2,601.59 miles.