For The Herald Bulletin
Pullman, Wash. —
McCormick Clouser posted a round of 4-under-par 68 to lead the Ball State men’s golf team Thursday in the opening round of the NCAA Pullman Regional.
The Cardinals, competing in a regional for the first time since 1991, posted a team total of 7-under-par 281 to find themselves in 10th place after day one at Palouse Ridge Golf Club.
Top-ranked California leads the 14-team tournament after a round of 23-under 265 on a day that featured exceptionally low scores. Saint Mary’s (Calif.), which got off to the hottest start of any team and led through the opening nine holes, is second on the leaderboard at 21-under.
Ball State is seven shots back of the No. 5 spot currently held by Pacific. The top five teams at the conclusion of the 54-hole tournament will advance to the NCAA Championship rounds.
“We’re in decent position after the first round, and that’s kind of the plan, to try to be in the mix throughout the 54-hole event,” Ball State coach Mike Fleck said. “We got off to a little bit of a shaky start, and then we played pretty well the latter part of the first nine holes, and then we hung on a little bit at the end.”
Clouser birdied seven holes, including five on the back nine (Ball State’s opening nine) on the way to the lowest round of his collegiate career. The sophomore from Bluffton was in the top 10 individually for much of the round and finished the day tied for 17th.
Tyler Merkel posted a round of 2-under 70 and is tied for 30th in the field of 75 golfers. Tony Lazzara shot an opening-round 71 to tie for 35th, while Joe Gasser is tied for 46th at even-par.
Former Liberty Christian star Alex Stinson rounded out the Ball State lineup on day one. The senior righted his round with a birdie on the 16th hole and an eagle on the 17th and fought for a 74.
The Ball State golfers combined for 24 birdies or better on a day when the course provided some low scores. The Cardinals’ round of 281 marked the team’s lowest of the year and tied for the seventh-lowest in program history. It was the lowest ever for the Cardinals in NCAA tournament play.
USC’s Sam Smith went lowest among the individuals Thursday with a 62 to hold the 18-hole lead. He leads by one shot over Mac McClung of Saint Mary’s.
“The hole locations were very gettable today,” Fleck said. “On this course, it’s all based on the wind, and it has been pretty calm here the past couple days. It looks like the forecast is pretty similar tomorrow and again on Saturday. So I think the mentality is going to be that you’re going to have to make a lot of birdies and see what you can do.”
Ball State will play today’s second round in groups with 11th-place BYU and 12th-place Baylor. The Cardinals finished Thursday ahead of both those teams, which are each ranked in the top 50 nationally.
Stinson will be the first Cardinal off the tee for the second round, going off at 12:15 p.m.