SALEM, Ore. (May 24, 2012) – On Moving Day at the NAIA Men’s Golf Championship, Oklahoma Christian was traveling the wrong direction in the standings, but a late rally put the Eagles back ahead of the pack.
Buoyed by a 2-under-par 70 from Vilhelm Bogstrand, No. 2-ranked OC posted a team score of 292 on a chilly, wet Thursday at Creekside Golf Club, giving the Eagles a three-round total of 877, three shots ahead of Our Lady of the Lake (Texas).
After firing the day’s best team round, a 286, No. 1-ranked Oklahoma City University was third at 881 and Johnson & Wales (Fla.) was at 882, setting up what has the potential to be a wild finish in Friday’s final round. OC has won two of the last three NAIA titles (in 2009 and 2011) and has finished in the top four for 12 straight years.
Individually, Bogstrand remained in second at 4-under, three shots behind Brandon Meltzer of Johnson & Wales.
“We could have gone out today and put the tournament away or given ourselves a really good chance, and we didn’t do that,” OC coach David Lynn said. “But I’ll tell you what – if you had told me at the beginning of the week that we were either going to be in the lead by three shots or behind by three shots, I would have taken it.
“We fight for the opportunity to have a chance on the last day and that looks like it’s going to be the case, so we’re really excited. I’m just proud of the way the guys finished today. They finished like champs.”
The Eagles entered the round with a six-shot lead over Our Lady of the Lake, but at one point Thursday had fallen to third, trailing OLLU by five strokes as well as OCU. But OC rallied with four birdies over the final three holes by its top four players Thursday – Bogstrand, Logan Herbst, Preston Wilkins and Alasdair Dalgliesh – to regain the lead.
Wilkins, who had a triple bogey on a par-3 No. 6 and a double bogey on a par-3 No. 11, had two of the late birdies, making 25-foot putts on both the par-5 No. 16 and the par-3 No. 17 and finished at 3-over 75.
“We hung in there,” said Wilkins, a senior from Tulsa. “Early on, you can’t give up. You have to be focused the entire round. There’s a lot of golf to play. … You just have to be patient and that’s what I did.
“I lipped out so many putts this afternoon and finally they started to fall in, so that was nice.”
Playing in temperatures in the low 50s and intermittent rain – which turned heavy midway through the round – the Eagles struggled on the front nine. Besides Wilkins, Jared Consoli also had a triple bogey after hitting into a patch of cottonwood trees on No. 7 and Dalgliesh recorded four bogeys in a five-hole span on the front nine.
“It did look bad on the front nine,” Lynn said. “I looked up and we go triple-triple. It’s early in the round, but on the front nine, the first four or five holes is where you really want to make your hay on this golf course. For us to get off to that bad of a start but hold it together, I was extremely proud. It was extremely critical for Jared and Preston to hold it together and they did that.”
Consoli bounced back with birdies on No. 8 and No. 9 – eventually finishing with a 76 – and Dalgleish birdied No. 10 before parring out the rest of the round to finish at 75. Herbst played steady with an even-par 72 and was tied for 11th individually.
Bogstrand played his third straight under-par round, overcoming a double bogey on No. 9 with four birdies, the last at No. 16.
OC golfers will be paired with their counterparts from OLLU and OCU for the final round.
“It will be one day for a national championship,” Lynn said. “It’s hard to think of it that way, but it really is. We’re going to go out and enjoy it. I will be happy with whatever happens, especially if we continue to grind and try like we have been. It’s been fun to watch.”
Wilkins said the Eagles have the right mindset.
“Tomorrow will be good. It will be a good learning experience for the younger guys, because they’ll have a chance to be put in a pressure-packed situation,” Wilkins said. “I’ve been there before and I know what it feels like and I know what we need to go do. I’m looking forward it. I’m not nervous at all. I’m ready for it.”