By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
Alex Stinson was rolling along nicely at the Capital City Club on Tuesday in Atlanta, until he got to the par-4 17th hole.
His chip shot wound up in a bunker, and the former Liberty Christian star couldn’t get up and down to save par. Instead, he wound up with a double-bogey and a first round 72 at the NCAA men’s golf championships.
At 2-over par, Stinson is in a tie for 66th place among individuals after the first 18 holes. He’s tied for second with Tyler Merkel among Ball State’s five scorers, trailing Tony Lazzara whose first-round 70 left him at even-par.
The Cardinals shot a 290 total as a team, and are in 24th place among the 30 programs still competing for a national championship. At 10-over, Ball State is one shot behind third-ranked UCLA and one shot ahead of 11th-ranked Florida and 12th-ranked Southern Cal.
The top eight teams will advance to the championship round after Thursday’s 54-hole cut. The Cardinals trail fourth-ranked Texas and 16th-ranked Oklahoma State — in a tie for seventh place — by 11 strokes.
“It’s kinda one of those things where it wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad at the same time,” Stinson said of the team’s opening round. “We kind of let some shots slip away coming in.”
Arizona State, ranked No. 38 in the final regular season poll, was the surprise leader after a first-round 270. Seventh-ranked Georgia Tech was four shots back in second place, followed by No. 2 Alabama (275), No. 26 Illinois (276) and top-ranked California (277).
Stinson said the pin placements were extremely difficult on day one, and the players expect the competition committee to ease things up a bit today as teams jostle for position ahead of Thursday’s cut.
“Obviously, today was about figuring out how the committee wants to set up the course and where to attack it,” Stinson said. “This is one of those courses where the more times you play it, the more comfortable you get.”
Stinson felt good after Monday’s practice round, and he was relatively pleased with his play in round one. His day started off with eight straight pars before he dropped a shot on No. 9 to make the turn at 1-over.
Stinson got that stroke back with a birdie on No. 11 before the bad-luck double-bogey at No. 17.
“Overall, I’m feeling solid,” he said. “I couldn’t really get anything going today.”
Stinson said the Cardinals will spend the next 36 holes positioning themselves for the run at the top eight. A similar rally helped Ball State advance out of the regional at Pullman, Wash., two weekends ago.
No matter how this week plays out, this will be the senior’s final event with his college teammates. Stinson can’t think of a better way to go out.
“As a college competitor, as an athlete, this is what you work for and what you play for,” he said. “This is the pinnacle of college golf.”