ALLENDALE, Mich. -- The first day of the NCAA Division II national championship had everything players and coaches would expect at a tournament of this caliber: thick rough, fast greens and tough pins.
Everyone agreed, however, The Meadows at Grand Valley State is in pristine condition.
“The green speed was perfect. The fairways were perfect. The rough was rough,” No. 4 Chico State assistant coach Steve Brown said. “If you’re not in the fairway, you’re being penalized.”On days like Monday, making par is something no one can be disappointed with. This was especially true in the afternoon rounds, which is when gusty, cool conditions and firmer greens provided a difficult closing stretch.
“It played tough.” No. 6 Nova Southeastern head coach Ryan Jamison said. “You had to grind out there.”
Only seven of the 108 golfers in the field carded an even-par 71 or better.
Nova Southeastern senior Mitch Farrer is the only player under par after 18 holes. A West Sussex, England native, Farrer made the turn at 2-over par, but rattled off three birdies in his first four holes on the back nine and added a fourth at the 510-yard par-5 ninth to finish with a 1-under par 70. His five birdies were the most by anyone in the field.
His low round helped Nova Southeastern seize the team lead as well. The Sharks had two other golfers – Ricardo Celia and Santiago Gomez – shoot even-par 71s to finish with a total score of 287 (3-over). Nova Southeastern’s Colombian duo is locked in a six-way tie for second place.
Four shots behind the Sharks in second place is Chico State, which posted a seven-over par 291 to open the tournament.
Chico State’s Alistair Docherty is also in the contingent tied for second place at even par. An All-California Collegiate Athletic Association first-team selection, he countered a pair of bogeys on the front nine with birdies at holes No. 4 and No. 13.
Additionally, he tied with Nebraska-Kearney’s Michael Colgate and Nova Southeastern’s Santiago Gomez for the most pars (14) of any golfer in the field.
“The course is in great shape. It is a little wet in the rough, but that’s why you don’t want to hit it over there,” Docherty said. “I made a lot of putts today.”
Defending national champion No. 1 Barry sits in third place after firing an opening-round 8-over par 292. Although the Buccaneers are very much in the mix to make the 54-hole cut on Wednesday afternoon, head coach Jimmy Stobs thought his team could have turned in a much better score to open their title defense.
“We gave a lot of shots away at the end,” he said. “We were playing pretty well. Then, the last five holes, we gave up at least five shots – just sloppy play and bad course management. The golf course played difficult even though the wind was down.
“We have a lot of work to do.”
The nation’s top-ranked golfer, sophomore Adam Svensson of Barry, knows he gave away a couple of those strokes down the stretch. Fe made three birdies and played bogey-free golf through 13 holes. A bogey at the 14th and a double bogey at the 15th forced him to settle for an even-par 71 and a tie for second place.
“It was just two bad holes,” Svensson said. “I’m not too mad about it.”
The sixth player to open at even par was No. 2 Cal State Monterey Bay’s Anton Rosen. At one point, the nation’s No. 41-ranked golfer was one of just three players under par.
A bogey at the 455-yard par-4 15th dropped him back to even. But he ground out back-to-back par saves, including one from the hazard at the par-3 17th, and lipped out a birdie putt at the 18th to close out a 71.
“It was in a plant. It was difficult even to identify the golf ball,” said Otters assistant coach Mark House, who watched Rosen chip the ball within two feet of the hole. “There was no way you could gauge exactly what the club head was going to do out of there.”
Rounding out the top five of the team standings are Cal State Monterey Bay at 16-over par 300 and Indiana (Pa.) with a 17-over par 301. No. 7 Central Missouri and No. 11 Malone are tied for sixth place with 18-over par 302s, while No. 5 Lynn and No. 16 Hawaii-Hilo both tallied 19-over par 303s.
Eighth-ranked Armstrong Atlantic is in 10th place and leads a group of eight teams within nine shots of the final spot for the match play portion of the tournament.
Individually, Malone senior Jon Clark and No. 5 Lynn’s Keith Greene carded 1-over par 72s and are tied for eighth place. Six players are locked in a tie for 10th place.
A pair of hole-in-ones also highlighted the day. South Carolina Aiken’s Kyle Godsman made aced the par-3 3rd with a six-iron and Scott Smyers of Barry made a one at the par-3 13th.
Teams will begin the second of three stroke-play rounds on Tuesday on the front and back nines at 7:30 a.m. ET.