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Darton golf finishes second in loaded Miss. tournament

Darton men's golf coach Bill Jones has enjoyed quite a bit of success in his first year at the helm.

Darton men's golf coach Bill Jones has enjoyed quite a bit of success in his first year at the helm.

GULFPORT, Miss. -- Bill Jones was a little puzzled why his Darton golf team recently dropped from No. 6 to No. 11 in the latest NJCAA Division I Top 25 poll.

After all, the Cavs opened up their fall season with a convincing win in their own invitational and then finished a respectable third in the Thomas University Invitational two weeks ago.

But Tuesday's second-place finish in the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Fall Invitational could go a long way toward putting the three-time national champion Cavs back in the spotlight.

Playing against two Top 10 teams on one of the toughest courses they will compete on all season, the Cavs shot a 292 Tuesday to finish two shots behind No. 2-ranked Meridian in the two-day, 15-team invitational at Windance Country Club.

Darton's two-day total of 582 (6-over) was good enough to defeat 13 teams, including seventh-ranked Central Alabama and 16th-ranked Faulkner State.

"With about six or seven holes left, we were tied with Meridian, but we lost a couple of shots coming in," said first-year coach Jones, whose Cavs were six shots back of Meridian and one shot behind Central Alabama entering Tuesday's final round. "We're disappointed we didn't win. We needed one more under-par score. We needed to shoot under par to really put pressure on them, and that would have won it for us by a couple."

Sophomore Shad Tuten and freshman Robert Robertson finished tied for third as individuals. They both shot even-par 72s on Monday and 1-over 73s on Tuesday. Sophomore Joe Sakulpolphaisan carded a 2-under 70 on Monday to lead Darton, but he fired a 76 on Tuesday to finish one shot behind Tuten and Robertson.

Sophomore Austin McNeill shot a Tuesday-best 70 to bring down his final score to 2-over along with Sakulpolphaisan.

"Austin was struggling with his putter (Monday)," Jones said. "I walked with him for a few holes and helped him read a couple of putts on Holes 5 and 6. He made birdies on those two holes, and from there he got his confidence back."

Freshmen Chase Jones and Neil Graham shot 151 (7-over) and 154 (10-over), respectively.

The Cavs have one more tournament Oct. 31 when they travel to Alexander City, Ala., to play in the Central Alabama Invitational, which will feature some of the toughest competition Darton will face in either its fall or spring season.