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Kelly Hill | | May 21, 2014

Hill: Home is where the championship is

  Barry, as a team, was tied for fifth at 29-over entering Wednesday's third round.

ALLENDALE, Mich. -- Home cooking is a rare treat for the golfers playing in the NCAA II men's golf championship on The Meadows at Grand Valley State. Most of the players grab a quick breakfast at their hotel in downtown Grand Rapids, then perhaps a burger or sandwich at the club after a morning round or before an afternoon round, and then more restaurant food for dinner.

Barry, who entered the championships as the defending champions and No. 1-ranked team in the nation, enjoyed at least one escape from the restaurant routine this week they were invited to a pre-tournament barbeque at the Grand Rapids-area home of Bucs senior Jared Dalga. Dalga, who attended and played at Eastern Michigan before transferring to Barry as a junior, may have grown up on the opposite side of the Grand River valley from Allendale and GVSU, he is no stranger to The Meadows as he won the Grand Valley Amateur Championship here in 2012.

“It's good to be close to family,” Dalga said. “It's great that my family can drive 20 minutes to see me play this week. It's comfortable, definitely. It feels good to be home. I haven't been here since Christmas when I came home. I love Grand Rapids and this is where I grew up playing. I feel comfortable here.

“Knowing a course is one of the keys to playing good golf,” he continued. “Feeling comfortable on a course is essential. I have loved this golf course ever since I started playing on it back in the day. I am a big fan of this golf course. The course is in amazingly good condition given the weather they've been having here lately. The rough is really long and thick and I was surprised the greens are as firm as they are.”

Dalga's admiration for The Meadows may have waned a bit after the tournament's first two rounds, Monday and Tuesday, as he posted a 4-over 75 Monday and a 7-over 78 in Tuesday's second round. He rallied a bit early Wednesday though, birdieing four of his first eight holes in the third round.

“I've struggled a bit,” Dalga said after Tuesday's second round. “It's hard to say exactly why, but I thought I played well [Monday] and didn't score well. [Tuesday] was one of those days. I only hit seven greens today and only nine fairways.”

Barry, as a team, was tied for fifth at 29-over entering Wednesday's third round. The top eight teams in the field of 20 will advance to Thursday morning's quarterfinal round.

“It has taken some adjustment from the southern grass to the northern grass,” Dalga said. “My iron shots have been a little long or a little short; I have had no consistency with my yardages.”

His parents, an uncle, his high-school golf coach and a high-school buddy have been out to watch Dalga play in the national championships this week.

“When I'm not playing so well I have to realize that it's just a game and I need to have fun playing,” Dalga said. “You have to realize that you play a sport of the fun of it.”

The Buccaneers though, also are playing for a second consecutive NCAA II national championship. “We had our roughest round of the year [Tuesday],” Dalga said. “Unfortunately, everyone had one of those days. The way this golf course is set up, it's a tough test.

“We know what we are capable of, so we are going to go out and execute, individually, and the rest will take care of itself.”

Barry has been led this week by No. 1-ranked Adam Svensson, who was 12th, at 4-over, through two rounds, while Berry Jole was tied for 13th, at 5-over. 

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