Pinehurst, N.C. - Western Carolina freshman Mark David Johnson fired an even-par round of 72 on Sunday to sit within a tie for seventh place to lead the Catamounts at the 2016 Southern Conference Men's Golf Championship being contested at the par-72, 7,091-yard Pinehurst No. 9. WCU sits seventh collectively as a team with a first round score of 306.
Defending champion ETSU shot a 1-under-par 287 Sunday to take a three-shot lead after day one, but the top five teams are all within eight shots of each other. Wofford junior Jeremy Grab holds a one-stroke lead in the individual race after posting a 4-under 68 on the Jack Nicklaus Signature tract.
For WCU, Johnson carded four birdies among his first 11 holes on Sunday to sit at 4-under for the round before bogies on the 12th and 15th holes left him at 2-under. The St. Simmons Island, Ga., native was poised to carry that score into Monday's second round before a double-bogey on the par-4 18th relegated him back to even-par for the day.
Senior Tyler Lail sits in a tie for 25th overall with an opening-round score of 4-over par, 76. The fourth-year striker countered a bogey with a birdie to make the turn to the back nine at even-par. A birdie on the par-5 10th moved Lail to 1-under for the round, but the Conover, N.C., product finished with a double-bogey and three bogies to shoot 4-over on the back nine and for the round.
Two Catamounts -- sophomore Jackson Bishop and freshman Bradley Durand -- are tied for 31st with matching scores of 79, while freshman Lawson King is in a tie for 37th at 81. Bishop was 1-over par at the turn before a tough back-nine left him 7-over, while Durand had a pair of birdies -- one on each side -- for his 7-over round. King had one birdie on the opening day.
The 56th-ranked Bucs put three players in the top 10 in holding the day-one lead for the second straight season. Junior Mateusz Gradecki fired a 2-under 70 to pace ETSU, as he sits in a tie for third with Furman's Bryce Howell. Gradecki turned in four of his six birdies on the day on the back nine.
ETSU freshman Geuntae Kim is tied for fifth at 1-under 71, while teammate Adrian Meronk, ranked 17th nationally, is tied for seventh at even-par. Meronk was 3-under and working on a bogey-free card until finding trouble with three bogeys in the final six holes.
The Bucs find themselves three shots clear of second-place Furman, which turned in a 2-over 290. The Paladins have a pair of players in the top 10, with Howell sitting in a tie for third at 2-under and Wehman Hopke close behind in a tie for seventh at even. Hopke was 2-under and working on a clean card until bogeys on holes 16 and 18 pushed him back to even-par. Freshman Garrison Hogan is 12th at 1-over 73.
Lurking right behind Furman is Wofford, which is one back of the Paladins and four back of ETSU at 291. Grab led the charge, bolting out of the gates with a bogey-free 5-under 31 on the front nine. He added one more birdie and a pair of bogeys after the turn to sit one shot clear of UNCG's Luke Haithcock after the first round.
The Terrier duo of Evan Grenus and Grant Waggoner is tied for 13th at 2-over 74.
In the team race, Chattanooga is another shot back in fourth at 4-over 292, with Kory Webb tied for fifth at 1-under 71 and Lake Johnson tied for seventh at even.
2015 runner-up UNCG is fifth at 7-over, with Haithcock leading the way by matching his career-best round with a 3-under 69. The senior was neck-and-neck with Grab for much of his round before three-putting for a bogey on 16, just his second of the day.
Freshmen Brennan Bogdanovich of Mercer and WCU's Johnson are tied for seventh at even to round out the individual top 10. The Bears are sixth at 15-over 303, followed by the Catamounts at 18-over 306.
Samford completes the team standings at 25-over 313.
The tournament resumes Monday at 8 a.m. with Samford and Western Carolina going off of No. 1 at 9-minute intervals. Mercer and UNCG start teeing off at 8:45, with Chattanooga and Wofford to follow at 9:30. Leaders Furman and ETSU begin teeing off at 10:15.
Live stats can be found at GolfStatResults.com.
|7th-t||Mark David Johnson||72||E|