May 13, 2010

By Todd Karpovich, Special to

HERSHEY, Pa. -- Top-ranked Methodist played strong down the stretch, holding off Huntingdon and Guilford to stay atop the leaderboard after the third round of the 2010 NCAA Division III men's golf championships at the Hershey Links on Thursday.

Huntingdon appeared to be pulling away after the first nine holes, but the Monarchs regrouped with some late key shots and stayed in control for the second consecutive day.

Methodist enters the final round at 884 overall, ahead of Huntingdon (889), Guilford (895), defending champion Oglethorpe (897) and St. John's of Minnesota (900).

Methodist's Trey Howell and Josh Schrader fueled the late rally and finished minus-3 and minus-4, respectively. The Monarchs are now in the driver's seat for their 10th national title in men's golf.

"We were really struggling on the front," Methodist coach Steve Conley said. "Trey and Josh really kept us in it. We were 6-over at the turn and they were both 1-under. They really dug deep. Huntingdon was really playing well early and had us down six or seven shots."

In the individual competition, Tain Lee, of Claremont Mudd Scripps (Claremont, Calif.) continued to lead for the third consecutive day with an overall score of 210, ahead of Schrader (215), Mitchell Fedorka of La Verne in California (216), Howell (216) and Chris Morris of Centre College in Kentucky (217).

After battling the rain and wind in the opening two rounds, the golfers were able to play in sunny conditions in the third round with temperatures hovering around 60 degrees.

Methodist (Fayetteville, N.C.) got off to a slow start in Tuesday's opening round, finishing in 12th place with a score of 307 at the more difficult Hershey Country Club.

But the Monarchs have been the dominant team ever since.

Both Howell and Schrader took advantage of the nicer weather and stayed poised throughout the third round. Schrader finished with four birdies on the back nine.

"We had some good weather today and that helped us out, but it helped out all of the other teams too," Schrader said. "We were kind of unlucky the first day with the weather we had and the course. We're determined to come out here every day and play the best we can."

Huntingdon (Montgomery, Ala.) finished second for the second consecutive day and coach Matt Mahanic was a bit worried about his team becoming complacent after taking an early lead in the third round. He knows it will be an uphill battle to overtake Methodist on the last day. The Hawks were led by Mack Duke and J.P. Kircher who each finished at minus-1.

"We just did not play a very good back nine today and that is something we will need to correct tomorrow or it's going to be a very similar situation," Mahanic said. "We just didn't execute. We put the ball in good position of the tee, but we just didn't execute. We didn't make putts. It was disappointing to watch.

"I don't think they're staying aggressive enough. I think they are just happy where they are. We have to fix that ASAP. We'll take care of that tonight," he said.

Guilford (Greensboro, N.C.) had taken over second place midway through the back nine, but fell back on the last three holes. The Quakers were led by Peter Latimer who finished the day even at 72. Interim head coach Korky Kemp said it is going to be difficult for any team to overtake Methodist, especially with a national championship on the line.

"Methodist is having an unbelievable year and Coach Conley has done a great job," Kemp said. "I think we have the firepower, but it is a matter of getting all of the guys going at one time. I don't think Methodist is going to back up, so we are going to have to go out there and win it. This course, you get a lot of short irons and you can make a lot of birdies. Hopefully, we'll come out firing tomorrow."