PLYMOUTH, Ind. — On a windy afternoon at The Swan Lake Resort's Black Course, Walters State saw its lead in the 2019 NJCAA Division II Golf National National Championship evaporate despite shooting the fourth best team score during Thursday's third round of the 21-team event.
The Senators shot a 16-over par round of 304 to end the day at 28-over par 892 for the first three days, and they will enter Friday's final round four shots back of leader South Mountain, as they shot the best round of the day at 6-over par 294 to end the day at 24-over par 888.
Walters State is still 20 shots clear of its next closest opponent and 26 shots clear of the final team in the top five, giving the Senators a solid chance at a top-two finish. And while the team is in major contention for a second national championship, WSCC also has an individual in contention for a solo national title, which would be the first for the school since Ryan Cabbage did so in 1995.
Alex Hodge is tied with Mississippi Gulf Coast's Brice Wilkinson for first place entering the final 18 holes. Both golfers sit at even par 216 after three rounds, with Wilkinson shooting a 70 in the third round compared to Hodge's 73. Hodge (73-70-73) was named a Second Team All-American earlier in the week, and he sits firmly in control of his own destiny to finish as a First Team All-American on Friday with another solid round. He sits one shot ahead of third place and six shots clear of a four-way tie for fourth, which includes WSCC's Andrew Linkous.
Kirkwood is third in the team standings at 912, followed by Mississippi Gulf Coast (913) and Black Hawk (918) in the top five. Parkland leads the next five at 926, followed by Rend Lake (935), Murray State (938), Abraham Baldwin (941) and Tyler (941) in the top 10.
Meridian is 11th at 944, followed by Des Moines Area (945), Scottsdale (950), Southwestern (958), Grand Rapids (966), Oakland (974), Mott (975), Lake County (998), Southeast Nebraska (1000), Buck's County (1043) and Southern Maryland (1087) in the field.
Hodge carded three birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey in his round of 73, posting a 36 on the front nine and a 37 on the back.
Linkous fired a 75 on the day and is also well within contention for First Team All-American honors as he sits tied for fourth at 6-over par 222 (76-71-75). Linkous was even on the front side before posting a 39 on the back, as he had three birdies, three bogeys and one triple bogey on his scorecard.
Dane Rheinecker had an off day on Thursday, turning in a 79 to end the day in a tie for 11th place at 9-over par 225 (73-73-79). He posted an opening nine 42 before rebounding to shoot a 37 on the back nine with eight pars and a bogey coming in. On the front, he had four bogeys and a double bogey.
Hunter Blanken continued his consistent play by posting his second straight 77 to end the afternoon in a tie for 21st place at 13-over par 229 (75-77-77). He was even on the front but posted a 41 on the back, as he had five bogeys, two birdies and a double bogey on his round.
Stephen Owen is tied for 90th place out of 132 golfers after shooting an 84 on Thursday, putting him at 31-over par 247 (86-77-84). He shot 41 on the front and 43 on the back, with eight bogeys and two double bogeys on the day.
The final round is set for Friday, with the lead groups teeing off early in the afternoon.