May 19, 2011
OCALA, Fla. - Baylor men's golf is tied for third place Thursday - two strokes behind leader Florida - after the first round of the NCAA Florida Regional at Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club. Baylor's first-round 284 is tied for the fourth-lowest NCAA postseason 18-hole score in program history.
Florida shot 6-under 282 in the first round and owns a one-stroke lead over SEC rival Arkansas (5-under 283). Two strokes behind the host Gators, Baylor is tied with North Carolina State at 4-under 284, while Oregon and Georgia Southern are tied for fifth at 3-under 285.
A rally on the back nine allowed Baylor, which was in 12th place after the first nine holes, to climb into the top five. The Bears' veteran lineup shot 6-over-par on the first nine holes at Golden Ocala, carding just four birdies. Behind Payne Gniewek, Joakim Mikkelsen and Cody Paladino, Baylor shot 5-under-par on the back nine and buried 12 birdie putts.
"Coming into the week, our goal was to put ourselves in position for one of the top five spots (to advance to the NCAA Championship)," head coach Greg Priest said. "During the season, we had a tendency to start slow and then try to claw our way to the top (of the leaderboard). We wanted to start strong out of the gate and we did that Thursday."
Paladino, who was making his fourth NCAA Regional appearance, sits in 10th place overall at 2-under 70 after 18 holes. It was Paladino's lowest 18-hole score in NCAA postseason play since his final-round 69 at the 2009 NCAA Championship in Toledo, Ohio.
"We've been inconsistent with posting four clean scores all year long," Priest said. "I knew we would put it together eventually in hopes that it would come at the right time.
"We still have a long ways to go, but Cody (Paladino), Joakim (Mikkelsen) and Payne (Gniewek) have a tremendous amount of experience at Regionals," Priest said. "They know what they need to do and hopefully we'll continue to play well Friday."
Trailing Paladino by one stroke, Mikkelsen and Gniewek are tied for 11th overall at 1-under 71. Like Paladino, Mikkelsen was even through his first nine holes. Mikkelsen then picked up a bogey on No. 13 before birdies on 15 and 18 helped him finish with a 71 - a personal NCAA postseason 18-hole low. Shooting 2-over on the front nine, Gniewek regrouped on the back stretch, shooting 3-under over the final nine holes to finish the round at 1-under-par.
The second round of the NCAA Florida Regional will be held Friday at Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club. Baylor, paired with Florida and Arkansas, will start from the No. 1 tee box beginning at 8:10 a.m. CDT. Live scoring will be available at www.golfstat.com.