On a ground that could not have been more difficult Friday, Western Carolina golfer J.T. Poston continued to prove he belongs.
The Catamounts senior was one of 23 players out of 156 — including Charlotte’s Riley Davenport — to shoot under par in the first round of the NCAA men’s golf championships at the Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Fla.
“When he gets in these big events,” said Catamounts head coach Bryant Odom, “he proves himself and shows he bleongs every time.”
Poston carded four birdies and three bogeys to finish in a tie for 13th a with 10 other players at 1-under-par 71. South Florida’s Claudio Correa and Thomas Detry of Illinois, the team leader at 2 under, were individual co-leaders at 4 under.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Poston, the nation’s 34th-ranked player. “I treat it like any other tournament, try and go out and beat all these guys. I like fast greens, always done well on them, so I think if I can keep (the ball) in front of me, miss in the right spots and make some putts then …”
To be continued.
Friday’s shot of the day belonged to East Tennessee State’s Gudmundur Kristjansson, who carded a hole-in-one at the 183-yard, par-3 sixth hole.
Kristjansson, the first ETSU men’s golfer to advance to the NCAA championship since Rhys Enoch in 2010 and the first to record an ace since teammate Rhys Pugh accomplished the feat on Oct. 7, 2013, finished with a 6-over-par 78.
“He had a great shot at the stick, but we couldn’t see the ball land since there was a bunker near the hole,” said ETSU head coach Fred Warren. “Once we heard the roar we knew something was up. There was a one-foot area where he could land the ball by the pin. He did just that and the ball went in.
“Unfortunately, he then ran into some trouble on the back nine as he drove the ball out-of-bounds and had some unplayable lies, which is very uncharacteristic of him. Hopefully he can turn things around in the next two rounds.”
Meanwhile, Charlotte achieved another first of its own — its first appearance in the NCAA men’s golf championship.
“When you’re able to beat the No. 1 team in the country (Florida State) and then a really good Stanford team that finished just behind us, it sure builds some confidence,” 49ers head coach Ryan Cabbage told NCAA.com. “It shows our guys that if we do play well, we can compete with the best teams in the country and beat the best teams in the country.
“Our only expectation is to be as good as we can be and take care of our business. It doesn’t matter whether it’s first place, 10th place, or 20th place, we need to focus on taking care of the things we can take care of, playing to the best that we can. Wherever that puts us, it puts us.”
On Friday, it put the 49ers in a tie for 14th with the Seminoles and No. 19 Oklahoma State at 10 over, led by Davenport’s 2-under 70. Charlotte’s No. 5 player was in a tie for fifth with seven other players.
UAB was 28th out of 30 teams at 20 over par, but the Blazers also were two strokes ahead of No. 7 Stanford. They were led by senior Paul Dunne, who carded an even-par 72, including an eagle on the 580-yard, par-5 No. 3.
See the full NCAA leaderboard.