By Brentley Romine, Golfweek
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – In his final event of the fall, Mercer's Trey Rule held the 36-hole lead at the Eagle/Osprey Intercollegiate only to see his bid for his first collegiate victory ruined by a final-round 9-over 81.
"I'd say that was the best 81 of my life because I learned so much from that round," Rule said. "That was the first time I'd ever been in that position, but now I have that experience, knowing how to play smart and take things one shot at a time, and hopefully close out a win."
Rule won't have to wait long for a chance at redemption, either, as the junior from Eatonton, Ga., leads after two rounds of the SunTrust Gator Invitational. A second-round 3-under 67 Saturday afternoon at Mark Bostick Golf Course moved Rule to 3-under 137, two shots better than second-place Hank Lebioda of Florida State.
"It was a long day," said Rule, who totaled 10 birdies on the day. "I knew it was going to be very difficult to consistently keep it under par with the wind and this golf course because it can bite you in a hurry."
Rule's strong performance Saturday has Mercer, ranked 38th in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, in second place as a team, three shots back of No. 25 Arkansas, which enters Sunday's final round at 10-over 570. No. 21 Florida State is third at 16 over while 16th-ranked Vanderbilt is fourth at 17 over.
The Seminoles, who cruised to victory a year ago, led the Razorbacks by two strokes after the first round, but Arkansas' second-round 4-over 284 was eight shots better than the Seminoles' second-round total of 292.
The Razorbacks have three individuals in the top 10 – Will Meason (T-3, 1 over), Sebastian Cappelen (T-6, 2 over) and Taylor Moore (T-6, 2 over). Mercer's Hans Reimers and Central Florida's Greg Eason are both tied for third, as well.
But they are all chasing Rule, who is 18 holes away from what could be an impressive bounce-back victory.
"I couldn't be happier for him putting himself in that position again to have a chance to win," said Mercer head coach Steve Bradley. "He's a big believer in fate and that everything happens for a reason. . . . He's come a long way in three years. This would be a spectacular start to the spring for him and I certainly hope he wins because he deserves it."
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