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Darton struggles on Day 1 of NJCAA nationals

Darton coach Bill Jones called Tuesday's first-round score of 300 by his team at NJCAA nationals "awful."

Darton coach Bill Jones called Tuesday's first-round score of 300 by his team at NJCAA nationals "awful."

LUBBOCK, Texas — Darton State College head golf coach Bill Jones III is getting a little sick and tired of yelling at his team this season.

And he hoped after Day 1 of the NJCAA national tournament, he could give his lungs a rest.

No such luck.

Darton, which played like a national-title contender in its two practice rounds on the Rawls Course in Lubbock, Texas — posting several low scores over the weekend — looked like a shaken team Tuesday when it posted a first-round team total of 300 to push the Cavaliers to a tie for 11th overall out of 24 teams. Darton fired a 12-over 300 and currently sits eight shots back of Day 1 leader Midland Community College (3-over).

“Not so good,” were the first words out of Jones’ mouth when asked to assess his team’s opening-round performance. “It was awful, honestly. I would say we made a lot of uncharacteristic mistakes, but we’ve been making them all year and just not learning from them. And (Tuesday), we did it again.”

The lone bright spot for Darton on Day 1 was sophomore Nick Green of Covington. Green’s play, according to Jones, was a “pleasant surprise” after Green carded the team’s low round of the day (even par) to keep the Cavs’ hopes alive for a fourth national title.

“Of all the guys I would’ve thought would come out and post a low score, Nick was not one of them based because this course is long, and he’s not one of best our long hitters,” Jones said by telephone late Tuesday evening. “Instead, he came ready to play. He has that mindset that he’s going to come and compete. I just wish the other guys did too.”

Green was tied for 13th overall individually and is four shots back of leader Chandler McDonald (4-under) of USC Lancaster Community College.

As for the rest of the Cavs’ team scores? Jones barely wanted to rehash what went wrong.

“It’s hard to say (what our problem) is. I think it’s a little bit of nerves, a little bit of the conditions,” he said of the combined 18-over Darton’s remaining four players carded. “We’re not getting our motor cranked, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot and we’re not learning from our mistakes. What’s frustrating is how talented these guys are, and to watch them play like this ... it’s just very frustrating.”

Freshman Parks Brown had the second-best score of 1-over — good for a tie for 16th individually — followed by freshman Taylor Martin (+5), while sophomore Robert Robertson and freshman Tae Kim both fired scores of 6-over.

Jones said he wouldn’t be surprised if Tuesday’s two worst scores were turned around dramatically today.

“Rob and Tae, our two longest hitters, can go low on this course. They didn’t hit bad tee shots (Tuesday), they just struggled with their short games,” Jones said. “Look, we’re only eight shots back, and that’s good considering how we played. We’ve got three rounds left to make up for (Tuesday). That’s the good news.”

The national tournament once was Darton’s bread and butter with the Cavs making deep runs nearly every year and winning three straight NJCAA crowns from 2005-07.

But Darton, which came in ranked No. 13 nationally, has fallen on hard times as of late, finishing a disappointing fifth last year.

The Cavs tee off today at 11 a.m.