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Central Florida keeps lead, Baylor, Wake Forest Surge at Hootie College event

AWENDAW, SC – We had a runaway and now it’s a war.  In the span of half an hour Central Florida’s nine shot lead over Florida State and Baylor dwindled to just one, before late birdies swelled the lead back to the four shot advantage they enjoyed at the start of the day.  They finished the day at 10-under.  Meanwhile Wake Forest (6-under) rode a strong performance through the lineup to surge into second place.  Baylor got strong rounds from Jeremy Alcorn and Jeremy Frye to ascend into a tie for third with Florida State, who shed five strokes to par over the day.  Both teams are at 5-under.

UCF’s Greg Preston took medalist honors for the second day in a row firing a blistering 67 to finish with a two day total of 133 (9-under).  “I wish we could have held that lead late” lamented UCF coach Nick Clinard.  “We had a chance to get some separation, but we dropped some shots in the last five holes.”

UCF had their team total to 17-under with six holes to play.  Wake Forest and Florida State were battling back and forth switching second and third places with each other at 8-under and 7-under.  But as the round climaxed, Forest and teammates Nuno Enriques and Gene Suh played the last six holes a combined 4-over.  At one point the nine stroke bulge whittled to one as UCF sank to 7-under before before Forest Enriques and Preston Brown scraped one more birdie each to regain the 10-under total.

“We’re still in good position and the guys are in a great state of mind” Clinard said encouragingly.  “I know Wake Forest is hot on our tail and they are a great team, I welcome a chance to have my boys try their best against my alma mater.  It would be sweet to beat them.”

            Wake Forest found the form that led them to runaway with last year’s title, as Hootie veteran Webb Simpson carded a 3-under 68 and Dustin Groves (a.k.a. “Rusty Grooves” to his friends and coach, Jerry Haas) fired a 69.  The team picked up two shots to par from the prior day’s total.  The team might have saved a few more, but former ACC and North and South Champion Sean Moore took a hard-luck triple bogey on 18.  “My tee shot rolled next to the lip of a bunker and my next plugged in another bunker.”  The bad break turned a probable 70 into a 73, which meant his score was thrown out.  Four out of a five man team’s scores count in the team competition, the last is discarded.

            Moore, a religion major and disciple of famed Wake religion department chair and golf nut Dr. Charlie Kimball, remained upbeat about the Demon Deacons’ chances to make up four shots on the Golden Knights.  “Any one of our five guys has a chance to win a tourney when they step on the first tee.  Having that competition between us makes us play better and that faith in each other makes us come back from adversity more easily” the senior stated vigorously.  Moore won his first tournament, a ten-and-under competition at only age six.

“Despite the hiccup at the last, Sean is a big game player” explained Wake coach Jerry Haas, brother of grizzled tour veteran Jay Haas.  “Sean holds the course record (a 64) at Tot Hill Farm, another Mike Strantz course in North Carolina.  He did that at just seventeen years old.  He always plays well in big moments.  He never shrinks from pressure”

            Several Baylor players are coming up big in pressure situations as well. 
Jeremy Alcorn had five birdies en route to a team best 68.  “I birdied 2, 3, 7, 11, and 13, but maybe the biggest moment was the par save on 16.”  The senior from Brownwood, Texas scraped a par after surviving a plugged lie in a fairway bunker and then blasting the approach over the green.  “I made a 25 footer for par.  If I miss that putt, with the way the last four holes were playing and with the wind whipping, a bad hole could have ruined my round.  But our whole team stayed steady in the wind and we’re in position at 5-under to give it a shot at winning this thing tomorrow.”

The senior, who’s only bogeys came at 5 and 15, was not fazed by the wind.  “We’re used to the wind in Waco, but there’s a lot of elevation change here and the greens are tricky.  You have to stay patient” he said calmly.  “The course gives you plenty of room to drive it, but you have to stay out of trouble and take your opportunities when they come and not force things.” 

            Florida State’s Matt Savage, who tied Forest for low round at 67, echoed the sentiment of patience.  “I didn’t let the ball get swept away in the wind” explained the sophomore communications major from Louisville, Kentucky.  “Yesterday I finished 3-over for the last four holes.  That’s a good way to blow a tournament.  So today I stayed in control by not doing anything stupid.  I put the ball twenty feet away on my approaches instead of trying to flag hunt.  I took what the course gave me and made my putts.”

Despite his claim of striving to keep an even keel, Savage lived up to his name by lighting the most fireworks the tourney has seen from any player.  He holed a forty yard bunker shot at the par-4 4th that ignited his round.  He then made birdie putts of thirty feet on the par-5 6th and another of the same length on the par-4 11th, a hole which features a severe, modified-Biarritz style of green.  “That made up for yesterday when I couldn’t buy one” he laughed as his eyes lit up.  “But the key was surviving the last four holes.  They can change your card so much for good or bad and the wind changes them completely from day to day” he says with a look of deep respect for their difficulty.  “Take 15.  A lot of guys get caught up in going for the hole, but the green runs away and it’s tough to hold with a long iron.  17 is straight down wind so its hard to club.  I hit 6-iron and went over the green and made bogey.”

But Savage rallied for a rare birdie at 18, hitting 5- iron to twenty feet.  “It was the perfect spot.  I had a straight uphill put and rolled it in.  The key to my round was playing the last four holes birdie-par-bogey-birdie.  The whole tournament will come down to how well we all manage those last four holes and they in turn depend on what the wind is doing.”

            Tournament director Doug Carnes agreed with Savage’s assessment.  “Those last four holes, the wind and the greens are why this tournament tightened up late.  The winds and greens of Bulls Bay are part of the course’s personality.  The course is completely different from wind change to wind change.  15, the par-4 was toughest on course yesterday and today.  It was right dead into the wind” he says pointedly.  “That young fellow was dead on.  The tourney will be won on 15-18.  Whoever plays those the best will win.”

Nevertheless, the affable Savage praised the tough conditions, the course and the tournament staff.  “I really like this design.  It’s fun and unique in that you can drive it anywhere, but you can’t fall asleep out there because one mistake and the hole will get out of hand” he said thoughtfully.  “This is the best college tourney I ever played.  The concert was a blast and everyone’s attitude is great. They are so glad to have us here, the members, workers and officials and that means so much to us.  It’s nice to be appreciated and treated well.  I think these people are more into the tourney than we are.”

            Alcorn agreed.  “We’re lucky to have played a lot of great tournaments this year; Vanderbilt at the Legends Club, the Border Olympics and TPC-Myrtle Beach, but between the Hootie concert, this amazingly cool golf course and the mix of fun and challenge, this is my favorite” he said sincerely.  “I hope Baylor comes back here every year.  It’s good for our game and it’s great to meet so many people who care about the community and are passionate about golf.”

Happily, the tournament raised significant money for charity.  The sponsors and citizens of Charleston have been deeply generous” said course owner Joe Rice.  “We raised $90,000 for the Hootie and the Blowfish Foundation.”


UCF  -10
LSU  +8
DUKE  +11
UNC  +12


            “I love my school colors, but not with a bull running around” joked South Carolina’s Matt Silvers, played an impromptu toreador yesterday when course mascot Titleist the bull romped around the golf course unexpectedly.  “Here I am in a red shirt again, I’m just a glutton for punishment.”

            N.C. State’s Chase Duncan – who has a fitting name after getting…wait for it…chased…by Titleist, agreed with Silvers.  “I’m taking this red jacket off on the 16th and 17th holes” he said acerbically.

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