GREENSBORO, N.C. – Hometown favorite Greensboro College shot 297 Thursday and claimed first place entering Friday’s fourth and final round of the NCAA Division III Men’s Golf Championships at the Grandover Resort. The Pride overtook first- and second-round leader Saint John’s (Minn.) University as the Johnnies struggled to a 306 Thursday and slipped to a tie for fourth in the 40-team field. Defending tournament champ Methodist University carded Thursday’s low round (295) and jumped from fourth place into second with an 880 total, three strokes behind Greensboro.
After Wednesday’s 36-hole cut trimmed the field to 81 players, morning showers greeted the remaining 15 teams and six individuals playing the par-72, 7,045-yard East Course layout. The showers tapered off by mid-morning, but left damp and overcast conditions with temperatures in the mid 60s.
Second-round individual leader Chris Morris of Centre College shot a one-under-par 71 and added a stroke to his advantage over defending tournament champion Tain Lee of Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges. Lee was four-under through his first eight holes, but struggled on the back nine, including a double bogey on 18 that left him with an even-par 72. He remains eight under for the tournament, five strokes behind the leader. Morris, a senior, had four birdies Thursday, adding to his tourney-best 18 birdies through 54 holes.
University of Redlands freshman Jeremy Sanders shot the day’s low round, a four-under 68, and moved into third place with a seven-under 209. LaGrange College’s Hudson Keener (71-68-72-211) and Texas Lutheran University’s Ryan Kiel (71-69-71-211) share fourth place, eight strokes off the lead.
While Grandover’s East Course is not Greensboro College’s home track, the Pride have taken a liking to the par-72, 7,045-yard layout. Greensboro tied Redlands for Thursday’s second-lowest team score, trailing only USA South Athletic Conference-rival Methodist. The Pride’s Ben Nihart notched his second round of 72 thanks to a bogey-free back nine that included two birdies. Teammate Brock Elder, a three-year Grandover employee, shot 74 and has the Pride’s best individual position, 11th place, at 218 (+2). Senior Connor Kennedy shot 75 Thursday, one better than teammate Kirk Mitchell. Mitchell (220) is 14th individually, one shot in better than Nihart after 54 holes.
After shooting 13 over par in his 36 holes, Methodist’s Mike Duncan turned in a one-over 73 Wednesday, sparking the Monarchs’ comeback. Teammate Robby Bruns carded his second straight round of 73 and Mike Frisina shot 74. Methodist’s Mike Wesko stands sixth individually following Wednesday’s 75 that raised his 54-hole total to an even-par 216.
Behind Kiel’s 71 and Chris Hyten’s 73, Texas Lutheran continued its steady play with a 298 Thursday that leaves the Bulldogs in third place at 882, two shots behind Methodist and one shot better than Saint John’s and Illinois Wesleyan University for fourth place. Emory University shot its highest round of the tournament (299), but remains in sixth at 885, eight strokes off the lead. With the exception of Methodist, which was 13th after 18 holes, none of the top-six teams have been lower than sixth after any round.
Tournament co-host Guilford College climbed two spots into seventh place Thursday with a 299 Thursday. The Quakers gained one stroke on the leader and sit 15 shots behind their cross-town rivals. Guilford sophomore Noah Ratner rallied from three-over after seven holes to finish with a team-best 72 that helped him move from 19th to eighth among individuals at 217 (+1).
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 final 36 holes on the East Course. Friday’s final round begins at 7:30 a.m. Admission to the tournament is free. A free link to live video webcast from Friday’s action can be found at http://www.ncaa.com/sports/golf-men/d3.