Kingston Springs, Tenn. — Clemson Head Coach Larry Penley hopes a late eagle by senior Turk Pettit will jumpstart his team in the second round of the NCAA Kingston Regional at The Golf Club of Tennessee on Tuesday morning. His team shot three-over-par 287 in the opening round on Monday and stands in seventh place after the first day.
Only the top five teams in the 13-team field will advance to the NCAA National Tournament in Scottsdale, Arizona May 28 to June 2. Penley’s number-one regional seed and the number-three national seeded team are a manageable six shots off that fifth-place cutline after 18 holes, but the Tigers will have to play much better over the last 36 holes.
NC State and Kent State are tied for the lead at seven-under-par 277. Host school Vanderbilt and Houston, a team not ranked in the top 50 in the nation, are tied for third at five-under-par 279. San Diego State stands on the cutline at fifth place with a 281 score. Arkansas is sixth at 283 and Clemson is seventh at 287, two shots ahead of eighth-place Charlotte and Virginia.
When asked what areas of the game his team needed to improve, Penley quickly responded, “Everything.” There were two areas that he discussed later in detail and there are statistics to back it up.
“We really struggled on the par-three holes and that has not been the case this year. And, we just couldn’t make many birdies.” The Tigers entered the tournament ranked first in the nation in par-three scoring with a 3.05 average. On Monday the average for the team on par three holes was 3.28, ninth in the field. The five Clemson players combined for just 11 birdies, 11th best in the field.
“We really didn’t play the par-five holes well either. We made three 6s on par fives. “
Pettit’s one-under-par 70 was the only score at par or better among the five Tigers. Clemson had 66 individual rounds at par or better entering the tournament and Clemson as a team ranked first in the nation in subpar holes per round entering the event. Pettit had a double bogey and a bogey on the third and fourth holes to get his round off to a rough start. Clemson’s four counters played the third and fourth holes a combined seven-over-par.
But Pettit regained his form with birdies on the seventh and ninth holes. He was one-over-par for the round when he came to the 17th hole. “He had about 230 yards in and the hole was playing downwind,” said Penley. “Turk hit a five-iron to about three feet and made the putt for eagle. “ It was Pettit’s fourth eagle of the year and the eighth of his career. He stands in a tie for 15th place individually after the first round.
Jacob Bridgeman, who has the top stroke average in the nation at 69.24 entering the NCAA regionals, had a one-over 72 in the opening round. The junior who will play for the United States next month in the Palmer Cup made birdie on each of the first two holes. Surprisingly he did not make a birdie the rest of the round, playing the final 14 holes at three-over-par.
Senior Kyle Cottam, Clemson’s top player at the ACC championship in stroke play (205) and match play (2-0), also had a one-over-par 72. He made a birdie on the 17th hole after hitting his second shot to within eight feet. He missed the eagle putt but made the birdie. Cottam and Bridgeman are tied for 30th after 18 holes.
Colby Patton had a two-over-par 73. He had consecutive birdies on holes six and seven but played the last 10 holes at three over. Patton is in 41st place after the first round.
Zack Gordon had six bogeys and just one birdie in shooting a non-counting score of five over par 76. He stands in 60th place in the 75-player field.
Play continues tomorrow morning. Living scoring is available on golfstat.com.