BURLINGTON, Iowa — With 18 holes left in the NJCAA Division I national golf tournament, Darton State is chasing Indian Hills and Wallace State.
But is there enough time to catch them?
“Who knows?” Darton golf coach Dale Dover said. “Stranger things have happened in golf. We just need to play really good and see what happens.”
The Cavs are in the hunt for a national title entering today’s final round at Spirit Hollow Golf Course after shooting a 10-over 298 in Thursday’s third round to pull into a tie for third place with Iowa Western Community College at 48-over for the tournament.
They made up five shots on front-runner Indian Hills thanks to Thursday’s round, but the Cavs are still 16 shots back of the Falcons and 13 behind Wallace State.
Darton will need to shoot the round of the tournament today and hope that Indian Hills and Wallace State both stumble under the pressure — but Dover is just excited that his team has a chance after shooting a 316 in the opening round and being forced to fight back from ninth place.
“I am excited for the kids,” Dover said. “I knew they could come back. They fought back. That’s more important to me than winning. I was just livid the first day with what we shot. I was about as mad as I had ever been because I knew they were much better than that. … I think they had their expectations up to the point that they wanted to win a national championship. Everybody talked about it, and I think they were a little nervous the first day.”
Now Dover believes the Cavs aren’t playing with any pressure — and that could be the key to a near-miracle comeback today.
“What I told the guys (Thursday) night is that we don’t have any pressure on us,” Dover said. “The pressure is on the other folks. They are the ones with the lead. If they put us in the last group with (Indian Hills and Wallace State), it will be fun. We can watch it and put a little pressure on them.”
The Cavs were led on Thursday by Macon native Seth Sanders and Taylor Martin, who both shot 1-under 71s for the team’s first sub-par rounds of the tournament.
Sanders dropped his tournament score to 7-over and is tied for seventh on the individual leaderboard, while Martin is tied for 11th at 11-over. The Top 10 individuals earn All-American status after the final round.
“They played good. Both of those guys played good and steady,” Dover said. “Seth actually could have been better than what he was. He had two bogeys coming in. He could have shot a 69, but that was what we were looking for was for two guys to go under par.”
Other scores for Darton on Thursday were Jake O’Bryan 76, Madison Turner 80 and Tae Kim 80.
Darton could have been in an even better position entering today’s final round but played the final four holes 7-over as a group. Dover said the team has had trouble finishing its rounds all week.
“That’s happened to us the whole time,” he said. “The back side has been killing us.”
The Cavs, who have finished no better than fifth place since joining Division I in 2011 but have won three national titles at the Division II level, will tee off in the final group today, starting at 2 p.m. with Kim, Wallace State’s Patrick Twesme and Indian Hills’ Colin Pearson.
Zac Oliver from Paris Junior College, Tim Walker from Central Alabama Community College and David Wicks from Midland Community College are tied for the individual lead at 4-over.