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Mountain to climb

Darton 16 shots back heading into final round

Darton freshman Jake O’Bryan is 2-under and tied for fifth individually after two rounds of the District IV Preview at Stonebridge Golf and Country Club. O’Bryan is only three shots off the individual lead heading into today’s final round. (Staff photo: John Millikan)

Darton freshman Jake O’Bryan is 2-under and tied for fifth individually after two rounds of the District IV Preview at Stonebridge Golf and Country Club. O’Bryan is only three shots off the individual lead heading into today’s final round. (Staff photo: John Millikan)

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Darton sophomore Taylor Martin watches his birdie putt roll into the hole at No. 18 in Monday’s second round. Martin shot 73 in each of his two rounds and is at 2-over for the tournament. (Staff Photo: John Millikan)

ALBANY — Nobody, including the nationally-ranked No. 7 Darton golf team, could catch up with Eastern Florida State on Monday in the opening 36 holes of the District IV Preview at Stonebridge Golf and Country Club.

Trailing by 16 strokes heading into today’s final round, Darton golf coach Dale Dover admits his Cavs are going to need a miracle to overtake the No. 14 Titans.

A miracle, and maybe some help from the local wildlife.

“It would take one of their players to get snake bit and have to go to the hospital, and an alligator would have to get another of their players,” Dover joked. “Then they wouldn’t have but three scores and would have to be DQ’d. Then we would have a chance.”

All joking aside, the Eastern Florida State golf team all but wrapped up a team title by shooting 19-under in the opening two rounds.

The 10 competing teams will play 18 holes today to finish the tournament, and at this point it’s a race for second.

Darton’s ‘A’ team trailed Eastern Florida State by just five strokes after Monday’s opening round, but the Titans pulled away from the field in the afternoon round with a 16-under 272, which was fueled by Drew Cooke’s 9-under 63. Cooke’s round set a course record for amateurs and tied the tournament record on a course that has fielded Nationwide and Hooters Golf Tour events.

“The guy careered it,” Dover said about the second-round score of Cooke, who shot a 6-over 78 in the opening round. “Other than that 63, we would be right there.”

Instead, the Cavs (3-under) find themselves battling it out for second with No. 5 Wallace State (5-over) and Meridian Community College (8-over).

Andrew College is in fifth at 14-over, followed by USC Lancaster (25-over), Darton’s ‘B’ team (25-over), ABAC (36-over), Cape Fear (39-over) and Wake Tech (50-over).

Eastern Florida State’s Kyle Benson is at 5-under and holds a 1-shot individual lead on teammate Brad Grey, while Cooke and Eastern Florida State’s Arthur Leonard are two back at 3-under.

Darton’s top score was from Jake O’Bryan, who shot rounds of 72 and 70 and is tied for fifth place individually at 2-under.

Despite being 16 shots out of first place, O’Bryan believes he and the Cavs can catch Eastern Florida State today.

“We are good enough and have the fire power to catch them,” O’Bryan said. “As a team we can go as far as 10-under. We are good enough to do that.”

Even if the Cavs fire a 10-under, they would still need help from an Eastern Florida State team that looked invincible on Monday.

But Darton sophomore Madison Turner also isn’t ruling out a comeback.

“Anything can happen,” he said. “It’s a long shot, but you still have to come out and play 18 holes.”

If it wasn’t for the Cavs’ poor performance on par fives, Dover believes his team would be in position to win the tournament. As a team, the Cavs had eight bogeys or worse on par fives and were a combined 1-under, while Eastern Florida was 13-under on par fives and Wallace State was 11-under.

“What I am so disappointed about is the way we are playing par fives,” Dover said. “That’s what has me all riled up. If we don’t make bogeys or double-bogeys on par fives, we have a chance.”

Also for Darton, Tae Kim (70-74) is even par, while Turner (75-70) and Rafael Miranda (75-70) are 1-over and Taylor Martin (73-73) is 2-over.

Darton’s ‘B’ team scores were Joshua Glossop (75-69), Elliot Hunter (79-74), Seth Sanders (80-74) and reigning Herald Player of the Year and former Seminole County star Tyler Shamblin (74-76).

Andrew shot rounds of 296 and 294 and was led by Tim Blomdahl (72-70) at 2-under.

The teams will tee off at 9 a.m. today with a shotgun start in what is Darton’s only home tournament this fall.