UA slips at NCAA golf championships, but ASU moves up

The Arizona State men’s golf team fired a 5-over 293 in yesterday’s second round of the NCAA Championships to give them a shot to advance to match play on the long road to the national title.

ASU and University of Arizona were just one notch apart after Tuesday’s first round at the Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.  Arizona held a slight edge, sitting in 17th place, but the Sun Devils were right behind, tangled in a tie at 18th place.

But the Wildcats lost a lot of ground yesterday, slipping to 26th place, while the Sun Devils moved up six places into a tie for 12th.

(*Update… ASU carded a 15-over par 303 in the third and final round, ending their season with an 18th-place finish at the NCAA Championships.  Arizona finished in 29th place after a round of 321 yesterday.)

The format for the first three rounds puts the teams into stroke play, with the top eight schools advancing to match play to determine the eventual team champion.  Quarterfinals will be held tomorrow and semifinals on Saturday.

For the Cats, it would be an insurmountable hill to climb to get to that eighth spot.  But it’s still within reach for ASU.

Only one UofA player posted a round at par or better.  Senior Stefan Cox shot an even-par 72 yesterday to move into a tie for 93rd place.  But Tarquin MacManus, a senior from Australia, continues to lead the team; he is tied for 62nd place at six-over 150.

But on the ASU squad, Jesper Kennegard has vaulted into a tie for 28th, climbing all the way from his 108th position after the first round.  The senior bogied the first hole yesterday, but then caught fire and recorded the second-lowest score of the day, a four-under 68 that gives him a 2-over 146 total going into today’s final round of stroke play.

Teammates James Byrne and Philip Francis also worked their way up the leader board with solid rounds yesterday.  Byrne shot a 1-over 73 to jump from 47th to 36th place, and a 72 took Francis from 108th to a tie for 62nd.

Francis attended Notre Dame Prep in Scottsdale before switching to home schooling his final two years.  He started his college career at UCLA and transferred in to ASU.  He began playing the game at a very early age and developed early, winning four consecutive Junior World Golf Championships to break the record held by Tiger Woods.

The NCAA individual champion will be crowned after today’s round.  Louisiana State’s John Peterson led all individuals coming into today’s round, firing a seven-under 65 yesterday for a 139 total.

Arizona State started today at 20-over par 596 and Arizona sits at 36-over par 612.  The leader is Georgia Tech, with a three-under 573.

Just two teams, Georgia Tech and UCLA, remained under par after the first two rounds on the rugged par 72, 7,416-yard course.

(Photo: Arizona Athletics/Luke Adams)