PLYMOUTH, Ind. — A cold, blustery made for a rough first round for No. 2 Mississippi Gulf Coast at the NJCAA Division II Men's Golf Championship.
Brice Wilkinson (So., Madison Central/Madison) shot even-par 72 to tie with two other golfers who completed their rounds for the lead after 18 rain-delayed holes at Swan Lake Golf Resort. The Bulldogs finished 22-over in fourth place, 13 shots back of No. 9 Walters State, 11 behind No. 1-ranked South Mountain and two behind No. 3 Kirkwood with three rounds left to play.
Nine teams were left on the course when the first round was suspended because of darkness.
"It was a long day," Wilkinson said. "The weather just beat us up out here. It was windy, cold and rainy, but we're all playing the same course, the same conditions."
Jake Crosson (Fr., New Hope/Columbus) didn't have a great day putting and still managed to shoot 5-over, and Jon Hopkins (Fr., Hockerill Anglo-European College/Bishop's Stortford, England) survived back-to-back triple-bogeys to shoot 78.
"We just struggled today," Gulf Coast coach Tommy Snell said. "Thank goodness Brice was Brice and shot even-par. We're behind, but we're not out of it."
The tournament started twice Tuesday. Heavy rains moved through when the first group had reached the fifth hole, and officials decided to cancel that start and begin again later in the morning so the teams could play the ball up through the fairway. Gulf Coast hit the course for the first time about 11:30 a.m., starting on the tenth hole.
Winds gusted to 20 mph, and the temperature didn't get above 50 degrees while Gulf Coast was on the course. A strong band of thunderstorms is expected to move through Tuesday night, and temperatures will soar to the 80's on Wednesday.
Wilkinson birdied 13, 15 and 17 to get off to a strong start Tuesday.
"I will take what I shot," Wilkinson said. "Even-par out here is an extremely good score. I was 2-under at the turn and I let a couple of shots get away from me, but I'm not too worried about it. It happens."
Gulf Coast has some work to do now to defend its national championship. The Bulldogs bounced back from a poor second round last year in Foley, Ala., to win the school's first team title.
"Now we're going to have to play really well from here on out," Snell said. "We've got to figure out our weaknesses. We've just got to play our game. We're capable of making a comeback."
NJCAA Division II Men's Golf Championship
Swan Lake Golf Resort
1. Walters State 297 (+9)
2. South Mountain 299 (+11)
3. Kirkwood 308 (+20)
4. Gulf Coast 310 (+22)
5. Parkland 311 (+23)
T6. Des Moines Area 313 (+25)
T6. Murray State 313 (+25)
8. Meridian 317 (+29)
9. Tyler 318 (+30)
10. Grand Rapids 326 (+38)
Brice Wilkinson 72 (E)
Jake Crosson 76 (+4)
Jon Hopkins 78 (+6)
Carter Nicholson 83 (+11)
Miles Jackson 86 (+14)
For more information on MGCCC's 10 intercollegiate athletic teams, follow @MGCCCBulldogs on Twitter and MGCCCBulldogs on Facebook, and go to mgcccbulldogs.com.
Sports Information Director
Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College