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Darton loses opening-round lead, falls 10 shots behind No. 1 Meridian

Darton's Joe Sakulpolphaisan is at 1-under and leading the Lou Hart Invitational.

Darton's Joe Sakulpolphaisan is at 1-under and leading the Lou Hart Invitational.

MERIDIAN, Miss. — Darton golf coach Bill Jones III has seen this before.

“And it’s a theme I’m not enjoying,” he said after the second round of Monday’s Lou Hart Invitational.

The Cavs fired a 10-over 294 in the morning and took a two-shot lead into the afternoon’s second round, but that’s when host Meridian Community College showed why it’s ranked No. 1 in the NJCAA.

Meridian shot one under as a team in the second round, overtook Darton for the lead and will take a 10-shot lead into today’s final round.

“We didn’t play good in the morning, and we didn’t play good in the afternoon,” said Jones, who didn’t rule out a final-day comeback. “Ten shots can be done if you put pressure on them early. If they shoot the same round they did (Monday afternoon) it will be tough, but if we put pressure on them early then they won’t shoot that low of a round.”

Meridian has been a nuisance more than once this season for the Cavs, who had a four-shot lead over Meridian earlier this month in the Goose Pond Spring Fling before Darton watched the top-ranked team surge to the top of the leaderboard and win the tournament.

Darton is currently in second place at 21-over in the six-team tournament, and sophomore and Thailand native Joe Sakulpolphaisan, the No. 1-ranked golfer in NJCAA Division I, is the individual leader at 1-under (70-71).

The course, which is one of Meridian’s home courses, is short but tricky — perfect for Sakulpolphaisan, who isn’t a long hitter but is deadly accurate with his irons and short game.

Darton sophomore Shad Tuten came in behind Sakulpolphaisan at 6-over (74-74) and was followed by Austin McNeill (75-75), Robert Robertson (75-75) and Chase Jones (80-81).

Darton, which is ranked 10th in the nation, tees off at 9:45 a.m. today in the final round.

GSW 8TH AFTER 2 ROUNDS: Georgia Southwestern senior Craig Gibson stayed hot and led the Hurricanes in Monday’s Bearcat Invitational in Greenwood, S.C.

Gibson, a native of Albert, Canada, shot a 73 in the morning’s opening round and then fired a 66 in the afternoon to enter today’s final round in a tie for third place.

“He is playing good,” GSW coach Andrew Danna said about Gibson, who shot a 65 in the final round of last week’s Bobcat Intercollegiate. “(Monday’s second round) was an impressive round. He made a lot of putts and birdied the last three holes. He is just being really consistent and has everything working together.’

The Hurricanes are in eighth place after shooting rounds of 299 and 295. They are 23 shots behind leader USC Aiken but are just nine shots back of Columbus State, which is in third place — a difference Danna said his golfers can make up today.

“We are continuing to work on the things we need to work on,” Danna said. “I am seeing a lot of improvement from the top to the bottom, and it’s just a matter of time before we put it all together.”

GSW junior and Lee County native Nate Gahman (75-73) is tied for 22nd, while Travis Oestmann is tied for 47th (74-78) and Christopher Hall (77-78) is tied for 60th.

J.P. Griffin shot a 79 in the second round but had his first-round score disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard.

Former Darton golfer and USC Aiken junior Taylor Welborn (76-69) is tied for 12th.