It was a tale of two halves for the University of Vikes men’s golf team on the first day of competition at the NAIA National Championship in Silvis, Ill. Playing on the TPC Deere Run course, the Vikes attacked their first nine holes of the day and put themselves in a strong position, before a difficult finish saw them wind up sixth overall.
“The guys played pretty well today,” said Vikes head coach Justin Clews. “We didn’t finish how we wanted too, but this course has some tough finishing holes coming in.”
As a team, the Vikes are plus-five after the first round, tied with Texas Wesleyan and William Woods University.
A clear grouping of three schools separated themselves from the rest on day one. Keiser University (-5) leads, followed by Coastal Georgia and Taylor University who both sit at four-under par.
Second-year Vike Jacob Hayes led the way for the team. The native of Tsawwassen, B.C. was plus-one on the opening nine holes, but took on the tough finishing stretch of play and fired in three birdies to finish the day at minus-two and in a tie for sixth.
“Really proud of Jacob’s play today,” said Clews. “He had it going all day and made some good putts coming in on the back nine.”
Lawren Rowe was steady as usual. The fourth-year player who has finished in the top-10 in seven of the eight tournaments the Vikes have played this year, shot a one-under par round of 70. Like Hayes, Rowe was steady on the back nine, firing in one birdie and managing to avoid any bogies.
Josh Miller and Mike Griffin sit tied for 68th after they shot identical opening rounds of 75. Both of them were far more successful at the start of the day, shooting plus-one and even after the first nine holes respectively.
Bruce Tomie rounds out the scoring for the Vikes. The fourth-year from Bedford, NS struggled throughout the round, carding a ten-over score of 81.
“To stay competitive tomorrow, we will need to better our score from today,” said Clews. “This field is strong and we need to hang around even-par every day as a team to be in the mix.”
In position for their best team finish at the National Championship since 2011, the Vikes are back out on the course tomorrow, May 16, at 11 a.m.
“I was pretty happy with the team’s performance overall today and we are in a good position heading into tomorrow’s round,” said Clews. “Looking forward to tomorrow and for the guys to post a good number to stay in contention.”