HERSHEY, Pa. - While the Fayetteville State Broncos golf team didn't play its best in the opening round of the NCAA Division-II Atlantic/East Super Regional on Monday, it can rest assured that there is still a lot of golf left to be played.
The Broncos' junior and Fayetteville native carded a 6-over-par 77 in harsh conditions to finish the first round in a tie for 14th on the East Course at Hershey Country Club, playing his way into the thick of the competition for an individual berth in the NCAA Championship.
"I just tried to keep my head," said Barge. "It was really easy to lose it out here. I think I did a pretty good job of it."
Fayetteville State, which won its 26th CIAA Championship last month and is making its eighth appearance at the super regional, finished the opening day alone in 13th after shooting a team total of 324. Brandon Jobe (Fr., Fayetteville, N.C.) shot 80, Jedidiah Frazier (So. Havelock, N.C.) added an 81 while Lincoln Jackson (Sr., Southern Pines, N.C.) shot an 86 for the Broncos' aggregate total. Mike Wallace (Sr., Fayetteville, N.C.) shot 97.
Playing conditions were difficult on the 6,984-yard East Course, which will host all three rounds of the 54-hole regional tournament. The players were greeted with a steady light rain throughout the day as temperatures hovered around the mid-50's. No player finished the day under par, with a trio of golfers - California (PA)'s Jordan Eck, St. Thomas Aquinas' Thomas Linehan and Wilmington (DE)'s Paul Tighe --setting the pace with 1-over 72s.
"It felt like the British Open." Frazier said. "It rained all day, the wind blew all day. These were tough conditions."
"It was a grind, but I'm glad the team got through it. We've got two more days left and I'm pretty sure we're going to make a run at it."
The average score was a staggering 81.8, and four of the six toughest holes by scoring average came on the back nine. All five of Fayetteville State's players started their rounds on the 10th tee.
"That was about the worst conditions I've ever endured," Barge said. "That was the hardest golf course-slash-conditions I've ever played in."
Wilmington-Deleware has opened the regional with a large lead after an aggregate score of 301. Indiana University of Pennsylvania was second, eight strokes back at 309, while Massachusetts-Lowell was another shot back at 310.
The top five teams from the regional will advance to the NCAA Championship in Louisville, Ky., later this month. After the first round, Fayetteville State is 11 shots back of fifth-place Concord (313).
But Barge still finds himself well in contention. A winner during the regular season and a participant in the National Junior College Golf Championship a year ago, Barge opened with two pars before bogeying the par-4 12th. He came back with a birdie on 13, his fourth hole of the day, before another bogey at the par-5 15th set him a shot back.
Barge made the turn in 2-over 37, but bogeyed three of the first four holes on the next nine before he steadied the ship with a birdie on the par-5 sixth. He was still at 4 over through 16 holes before bogeys on the last two holes dropped him to 6 over and from a share of eighth to a tie for 14th.
If Fayetteville State fails to finish as one of the regional's top five teams, Barge must place among the top two individuals from teams not placing in the top five to qualify for the NCAA Championship, which will be played from May 15-19 at the Cardinal Club Golf Course.
Jobe, the CIAA Player of the Year, salvaged his round with a brilliant finish. Jobe struggled out of the gate with two double bogeys in his first five holes to fall to 6 over before closing his opening nine with an 8-over 43. After a double-bogey on the par-5 first hole - his 10th of the day - to fall to 10 over for the tournament, Jobe rallied with four straight pars, a birdie on no. 6, and three more pars to play his final eight holes in 1 under for a 9-over 80, putting him in a tie for 38th.
"I got it going on the back side, but the front nine was very difficult," said Jobe. "I didn't have an umbrella, so I was soaking wet out there."
Fayetteville State will get a chance to make a move up the leaderboard early in Tuesday's second round, with its five golfers teeing off between 7:30-8:10 a.m. The third and final round will be played on Wednesday.
"It was a grind, but I'm glad the team got through it," Barge said of the first round. "We've got two more days left and I'm pretty sure we're going to make a run at it."
Chowan's Cliff Forbes, who was the CIAA Championship medalist in April, shot 81 and is tied for 52nd Virginia State's Stephen Genchi, like Forbes playing as an individual, shot 83 and is tied for 63rd.
Fayetteville State, which has won 11 of the last 15 CIAA Championships, last reached the regional tournament in 2009 when it became the first HBCU in 35 years to qualify for the NCAA Championship.