STILLWATER, Okla. – Sophomore Austin Cook of the University of Arkansas men’s golf team shot an opening round two-under par to place himself in a tie for fifth after the first day of competition at the 2011 NCAA Men’s Golf Championships at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla. As a team, Arkansas finished its round at eight-over par and is 12th.
While Cook played one of his best collegiate rounds, the story for Arkansas’ team was certainly its finish as the Razorbacks played the final three holes at five-under par. The strong finish by the Razorbacks carried the team from 13-over par down to eight-over and to a first round score of 296.
"What a finish," Arkansas head coach Brad McMakin said. "We had to take advantage of the lack of wind today and I think that we did that. Anything off the fairway on this course can really hurt your score and I think that we were able to manage our games well."
Cook’s day was certainly the story for Arkansas as the Jonesboro, Ark., native was methodical in his approach to the course. A pair of bogeys on the front nine, 12 pars and four birdies gave him his final score of 70 which was tied for the lead as he came off the course. Even par at the turn, Cook sank par putt after par putt on the back nine until he hit 17 which is where he was on his game as he finished with a pair of birdies. On 17, a par four, 471-yard hole that McMakin called the "toughest hole in golf" on Monday, Cook played his second shot past the hole leaving him a 30-foot, slight downhill, putt which he drained.
"I am really proud of Austin," McMakin said. "He played his best golf at the Southeast Regional and that carried over to today. I especially liked the way that he got himself out of trouble and continued to hit par. It was a great round."
Junior Ethan Tracy and senior Jamie Marshall each shot three-over par rounds of 75 and were joined by freshman Sebastian Cappelen at 76 to make up Arkansas’ team score. Freshman Will Pearson finished his day with a score of five-over par, 77.
Tracy’s day began well with a birdie on the second hole, but a bogey on three moved him back to even par. His round got worse in a hurry as he posted bogeys on five, seven and eight before birdie on nine had him at three-over par at the turn. Like his teammate, Cook, Tracy was solid on the back nine as he sank par on the first five holes, but a double bogey on 15 brought his score to five-over par with three holes to play. Tracy responded from the setback with birdies on 16 and 18 which included a wedge shot on the par five 18th that landed four feet from the cup.
Marshall, Arkansas’ most veteran player, had a terrible start to his day with back-to-back bogeys on the second and third holes. The round only got worse as he posted a double bogey on eight and he started the final nine holes at four-over par. The experience of being a senior allowed Marshall to finish the day with two birdies and a bogey for his final score of 75. Marshall was one of four Razorbacks to post birdies on the par five 18th.
Perhaps the player that grinded through his round the hardest was Cappelen who recorded six bogeys, 11 pars and a pair of birdies to get to his 76. Cappelen was three-over par at the turn and recorded a bogey on 10 to move to four over. His score would go as high as six-over par after 15, but the Dane finished strong with a pair of birdies on 17 and 18. Perhaps what got Cappelen started was an ordeal on 15 where he hit his tee shot right and potentially out of play. Without knowing the status of his first ball, Cappelen shot a second off the par three tee box which promptly went into the hole for what could have been par after his penalty. Unfortunately for Cappelen and the Razorbacks, his first tee shot was located in the deep rough and he finished the hole with a bogey.
Arkansas’ final competitor, Pearson, played a solid round for the Razorbacks even though his score would ultimately not count. The Memphis, Tenn., native was three-over par at the turn and finished with a birdie and two bogeys for his 77. After a bogey on the first hole, Pearson hit his tee shot on two into the thick rough and it appeared as though he could have a huge score. The situation looked bleaker after his second shot landed in the rough left of the fairway. Pearson’s next shot somehow landed on the green giving him a chance at par and the newcomer sank a 27-foot putt to walk away with par.
The Razorbacks continue action at the 2011 NCAA Championships on Wednesday afternoon as they tee off at 12:20 p.m. from the 10th tee. Arkansas will continue to play with players from California and Southern California for the second round.