University of Georgia golf coach Chris Haack felt jealous of the teams with morning tee times.
The conditions before noon were perfect for scoring with no wind, little rough and gentle greens. Augusta State took advantage and posted an 11-under-par round from an early spot.
Rain moved in as Georgia players stepped up to the tee. They played 18 holes in steady showers but torched the grounds of Council Fire Golf Club.
The Bulldogs shot 19-under 265, a school record for one round, and lead the NCAA East Regional after one round by eight shots over Augusta State.
“We watched in the morning and saw how ideal it was for scoring, and I got to thinking, ‘Those guys sure got the better end of the deal,’” said Haack, who never held an umbrella or donned rain gear out of superstition.
Staff Photo by D. Patrick Harding- Chattanooga's Ben Rickett drives off of the 16th tee during the first round of the NCAA Regional competition at Council Fire golf Club.
“They did a very good job of battling the elements,” he said of his players. “All day long, they looked like the rain never affected them.”
SMU is third at 276 on the par-71 setup that measured 6,961 yards. Middle Tennessee State and Mississippi State are tied for fourth at 278.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga also played in the afternoon rain and tied for 11th at 2-under 282. Juniors Ben Rickett and Jonathan Hodge led the Mocs with a 69 and a 70, respectively, and sophomores Fredrik Qvicker and Derek Rende shot 71 and 72.
UTC is one shot out of the top 10, which is the benchmark necessary to advance to the NCAA Championship in two weeks.
“We didn’t hurt ourselves today,” UTC coach Mark Guhne said. “We would have liked to play a little better. Nobody went crazy low, but there were good and solid performances.”
Georgia and Augusta State’s Jaguars had spectacular showings. ASU freshman Henrik Norlander and UGA sophomore Hudson Swafford each shot 65 to share the individual lead.
“It was a great start for our team,” Jaguars coach Josh Gregory said. “I couldn’t ask for anything better. Henrik shooting 65 in his first NCAA (regional) is pretty special.”
But that doesn’t top the Bulldogs setting a school record. While Georgia’s 265 is the best team round in school history, the 19-under relation to par is one of the best in school history.
Georgia junior Adam Mitchell, who played at McCallie, and freshman Russell Henley shot 66s with Brian Harman adding a 68.
“It was a pretty unbelievable round for our team today,” Swafford said. “I saw the leaderboard when we teed off; 11 under was leading and I thought, ‘That’s going to be hard to catch.’
“Nineteen under is pretty mind-boggling.”
Georgia’s five golfers combined for 24 birdies and two eagles. Former Baylor star Harris English had Georgia’s drop score of 74, which would have counted for every other team.
“Your first goal is to come in and play solid and not do anything stupid,” Haack said. “Now we can go out and really try to win this thing.”
UTC’s Mocs have readjusted their goal from winning the regional to making the top 10. Chasing down Georgia seemingly would be impossible, but they are only four shots out of fourth place, three out of sixth and two out of seventh.
“Georgia is in a world of their own,” said Rickett, who eagled No. 10, the Mocs’ first hole of the day. “We’re in good shape. We could have gone out there and shot ourselves in the foot considering the conditions, but we didn’t.”
The Mocs and Bulldogs will have early tee times today with UGA starting on No. 10 at 7 a.m. and the Mocs starting on No. 1 at 7:18.
“We need to go out and we need to move up five or six places so Saturday is not such a fight,” Guhne said. “Hopefully we can go out, make some birdies and show what we can do.”
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...