OCALA, Fla. – Junior Ethan Tracy birdied his final two holes on Thursday afternoon to shoot four-under par and lead the University of Arkansas men’s golf team to second place after the first round of competition at the NCAA Southeast Regional in Ocala, Fla.
Tracy shot a team best 68 on the day to tie for fourth as an individual as he went three-under par over the final nine holes. As a team, Arkansas stands at five-under par, one stroke behind the host and No. 1 seed in the regional, Florida. Baylor and North Carolina State are tied for third at four-under par with Oregon and Georgia Southern tied for fifth at three under. The top five teams advance to the NCAA Championships.
"I thought that overall we had a good day and put ourselves in a position to not only advance to the NCAA Championships, but to win the regional," Arkansas head coach Brad McMakin said. "Ethan had a tremendous day. He has been striking the ball very well of late and that continued today. We came in ready to play and that showed in our scores, no one on the team shot worse than one-over par. If we can continue to play like this for the next two days we should have no problem advancing to the national championships."
Tracy’s round of 68 matches the fourth best score in Razorback history for a regional and is one stroke off the school record of 67 which is shared by teammate Jamie Marshall and PGA Tour veterans Tag Ridings and Brenden Pappas. Opening with a pair of par putts, Tracy moved to one-under with a birdie on the par four third. A bogey on five moved him even, but he closed out the front nine with a birdie on nine. That birdie was one of three between nine and 12, placing him at three-under par until a bogey on 14. Tracy would close strong with his back-to-back birdies on 17 and 18.
Sophomore Austin Cook also had a very good day as he finished at one-under par. Cook was consistent for most of the day as he counted 13 holes of par, two bogeys and three birdies. After falling to one-over par after the fourth hole, Cook rebounded quickly with a birdie on five, and then backed it up with another on seven. The Jonesboro, Ark., native would also birdie 11 to move to two-under par, but a bogey on 18 prevented him from one of his best single rounds of the year.
Freshman all-SEC player Sebastian Cappelen had a tough opening nine, but settled in on the back side of the course to shoot one-under par for the round. A trio of bogeys on one, seven and nine were offset by four birdies and 11 pars, with two birdies and seven pars coming over the final nine holes of the course. Cappelen may have had an even better score as he attempted to go for the par five green on 18 in two, but his fairway wood shot landed just short of the green and in a greenside trap forcing him to chip out. His birdie attempt on the hole came from roughly 12 feet and was headed straight for the cup before stopping just inches from its destination.
Will Pearson, Arkansas’ other freshman in the lineup, recorded his the first eagle of his career on the par five seventh when he chipped in on the 546-yard hole. The eagle allowed Pearson to play the opening nine holes at even par and the Memphis, Tenn., native was one-under par after a birdie on 12, but back-to-back bogeys placed him one-over par where he would finish. Pearson finished his round with four-straight holes of par to match his third best single round score of his career.
Arkansas’ final participant at the championship, senior Jamie Marshall, came up short on at least three long putts which could have had him under par for the day, but instead finished at one-over. Marshall finished his day with three birdies and four bogeys, but did par the final five holes.
The Razorbacks continue action at the NCAA Southeast Regional on Friday morning at 9:10 a.m. eastern from the first tee. Arkansas and Florida will again play together after walking with each other on Thursday and will be joined by either Baylor or North Carolina State who are tied for third. Final pairings have yet to be determined.