GREENSBORO, N.C. – St. John's (Minn.) University holds the lead at one-over-par 577 halfway through the NCAA Division III Men's Golf Championships at the Grandover Resort. The Johnnies, ranked first in the latest Golfstat.com Division III Relative Rankings, shot 291 in Wednesday's second round and hold a three-stroke edge over local favorite Greensboro College in the 40-team field.
Centre College's Chris Morris blistered Grandover's par-72, 6,800-yard West Course with eight birdies (six on the front nine) for a tournament-low round of 65 Wednesday. At 12-under par for the tournament, the senior holds a four-shot lead in the 205-man field. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges junior Tain Lee, the defending tourney champion, trimmed two strokes off his opening-round 69 Wednesday and sits in second place at 136, eight strokes under par. LaGrange College senior Hudson Keener holds third at 71-68-139 (-5).
After shooting a two-under 286 in Tuesday's first round on the West Course, St. John's carded a 291 Wednesday on the par-72, 7,045-yard East Course. Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA) All-Freshman Team and PING All-Central Region selection Casey Vangsness led the Johnnies with a one-under 71 that moved him into a share of fifth place among individuals at 141 (-3). He shook off a double-bogey seven on the 12th hole and birdied three of the last four holes. Teammate Tony Krogen fired an even-par 72, five strokes better than his opening round. St. John's Dennis Granath and Alex Klehr both shot 74. Granath is tied with teammate Mark Giorgi for 14th place individually at even-par 144.
Greensboro College posted the West Course's low round Wednesday with a one-over 289 than moved the Pride into second place at 580, three shots behind St. John's. Kirk Mitchell shot one-under 71 and Josh Nichols turned in a 72 for Greensboro. Mitchell (73-71) and teammate Brock Elder (71-73) are part of the five-man logjam in 14th place at 144. Connor Kennedy shot one-over 73 for Greensboro Wednesday.
Behind Ryan Kiel's three-under 69, Texas Lutheran University moved up two spots into third place after its second straight round of 292. The Bulldogs have a one-shot edge over Illinois Wesleyan College, which shot 291 Wednesday on the East Course. Illinois Wesleyan's Ryan Dorner fired a one-under 71 and sits 12th individually with a four-under 144.
Defending tournament champion Methodist University made Wednesday's biggest jump, climbing nine spots into a share of fourth place with Illinois Wesleyan. The Monarchs shot Wednesday's low score (286) on the West Course, thanks in part to Mike Wesko's 68. The All-Southeast Region pick enjoyed a bogey-free round with four birdies to climb from 30th to fifth place among individuals. He and teammate Alex Weir (70-71) share fifth at 141.
Tournament co-host Guilford College, ranked first in the latest Golf World/Nike Golf Division III Coaches' Poll, slipped one spot into ninth place after shooting 298 Wednesday on the West Course. All-Southeast honoree Noah Ratner had the Quakers' low round of the tournament (70) and shares 19th place at 145. Teammate Mat Hennick, also an all-region honoree, shot 71 Wednesday and is in 28th place at 146.
The top 15 teams advance to play the tournament's remaining 36 holes Thursday and Friday on the East Course. Millikin University and the University of La Verne won a three-team playoff for the 14th and 15th positions. La Verne's Andrew Roque helped the Leopards reach the playoff with a hole in one on the West Course's fifth hole. The shot marked the tournament's third ace as the State University of New York at Farmingdale rookie Adam Larkin made a hole in one at 12 on the East Course. Teammate Rich Kelly aced the par-three 15th hole Tuesday on the West Course.
Six individuals whose teams did not advance to the third round qualified to play the tourney's remaining 36 holes: Lee, Keener, Maryville (Tenn.) College's Trey Bridwell, the University of Wisconsin-Stout's Dan Nelson, McDaniel College's Greg Bowman, and Gustavus Adolphus College's Alex Kolquist. Kolquist sank a 15-foot birdie on the 18th hole to win a one-hole, four-man playoff for the sixth and final position.
Guilford and the Greensboro Sports Commission are co-hosting this year's national championship, which is being held at Grandover for the first time. The teams used Grandover's East Course and West Course for the first 36 holes, but will play the remaining 36 holes on the East Course. Thursday's third round begins at 8:00 a.m. Admission to the tournament is free.