Copyright 2016; Wilmington University. All rights reserved. Photo of Braun teeing off on hole 9, his final of the day, which he shot par.
DENVER, Colo. - - Looking to make a splash on the first day of the NCAA Division II National Tournament, the Wilmington University men's golf did exactly that by carding a 289 and finishing in a tie for fifth place overall at the Green Valley Ranch Golf Club.
The tie for fifth place is the best showing in the first round by the Wildcats, now playing in their fifth NCAA Division II National Tournament in the past six years. The Wildcats rode the coattails of junior Freddy Braun, who hasn't played since the St. Thomas Aquinas Spring Invitational on April 17. He is in second overall after 18 holes.
Starting on the 10th tee on Tuesday, the junior went out and scorched the back nine, hitting a birdie on 12 before his only hiccup of the day with a bogey on 14. Braun closed out the back nine with three straight birdies on 16, 17, and 18 to make the turn at three-under. After three straight pars to start the front, Braun birdied holes four and six, and had a long birdie putt on the ninth green, but finished with a 67 (-5).
Senior Andreas Lunding isn't far behind Braun, shooting a 70, two-under par to sit in a tie for 13th overall. Lunding hit his lone bogey on the back-nine on the par three 13th, but bounced back with birdies on 15 and 17 to make the turn at one-under par. A birdie on the second hole put the senior at two-under. Lunding then hit four straight pars before a bogey on seven knocked him down a peg, but the senior bounced back and holed out with a birdie on the ninth to finish with a 70. His second shot on nine went into the greenside bunker, but he got up and down for the birdie to round out the Wildcats.
Sophomore Joey Russo was the third Wildcat to fire the ball well on Tuesday, finishing with an even par 72 to sit in a tie for 26th overall. Russo birdied the 18th hole to make the turn at even par, and battled back on the front nine. Russo bogeyed holes four and six, but after each bogey came back with a birdie on five and seven to finish the day as even par.
Freshman Ryan Rucinski struggled in his first NCAA Division II National Tournament Appearance, hitting four straight and five overall bogeys on the back nine. Rucinski birdied the first hole after the turn, but bogeyed holes four, five, and six before finishing with another bogey on nine for an 80 (+8). He is in a tie for 96 overall to round out the Wildcat scoring.
Junior Sam Clark rounded out the Wildcats on the course on Tuesday with an 82 (+10). After shooting a double bogey and a bogey on the first three holes of the day, the junior settled in for five straight pars before a bogey on 18 to round out the back nine. But four bogeys and a double bogey on the front put the junior in a tie for 103rd overall after the first round.
The Wildcats are tied with 28th ranked Central Oklahoma in fifth overall, but trail overall leader and No. 2 St. Leo by 11 strokes. St. Leo shot a 278 (-10) to lead the field by four strokes. The only player better than Braun today was St. Leo's Hugo Bernard who fired a 65 (-7) to lead the field.
The Wildcats will now take the course early in the second round on Wednesday, teeing off on the first round starting at 9:35 a.m. (7:35 local time).