On the NCAA golf championship leaderboard Tuesday, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga senior Jonathan Hodge was nothing remarkable. Out of 156 golfers, he was tied for 41st.
But on Golfweek's Web site, Hodge was Numero Uno, navigating the venerable magazine's Internet chat room every bit as smoothly as he did the Inverness course at Toledo, Ohio, where he shot an opening-round 74.
Out of 156 possible bloggers, Golfweek chose Hodge. If it was probably because he and his Mocs teammates led for roughly half the afternoon before finishing the day third behind Oklahoma State and Georgia, all the better.
"Tremendous for our program," UTC golf coach Mark Guhne said a few minutes after Hodge exited the chat room and headed for the driving range. "We've already gotten a couple of fantastic kids for next year because of players such as Hodge and (Derek) Rende.
"Something like that further puts your program on the national scene. Jonathan was actually being asked questions today by kids overseas. You can't buy that kind of exposure."
The Mocs have been on the national scene since soon after Guhne took over his alma mater's program four years ago. He has won multiple Southern Conference championships, overseen a brief stay at No. 1 nationally last autumn and now has the Mocs competing for a national championship.
"I knew we could do it," the coach said late Tuesday afternoon. "I'm pleasantly surprised that we did."
The UTC softball team, which also won a SoCon title this year, pleasantly surprised Hodge and his teammates after they won their SoCon title. The girls decorated the guys' student apartment at UTC Place before they returned home.
"There must have been 50, 75 balloons in there," Hodge recalled over the phone late Tuesday. "There were streamers taped to the ceiling. They finger-painted silhouettes of us playing golf on posters, then put photos of our faces on top of them. They wrote, 'Home of the SoCon Champs.' It was mostly Jenni Martin, Brooke Loudermilk and Kaiti Kelley, and it was great."
So who should join the Golfweek chat room but Martin, who wrote: "If you guys win, do you expect the softball girls to have your apartment decorated again?"
Replied Hodge: "We would most definitely expect our apartment to be decorated, especially from you all."
That wasn't the only question he answered, of course.
Of the possible shock of the Mocs standing third he said, "We feel as though we belong out here. We all feel like our hard work is paying off."
When senior Ben Rickett's family chimed in from Surrey, England, that they were watching over the Internet, Hodge wrote, "Hey, Ricketts! We all miss you. ... Hopefully we did a good job of keeping the spiders off the scorecards today!!"
Asked what's on his iPod, he responded, "Mostly Christian stuff. Got some good Chris Tomlin. Switchfoot's one of my favorites."
As for the hardest thing about college golf, the Jefferson City, Tenn., resident said, "Getting up to go to class."
Hodge also told the audience that he planned to remain an amateur at least through the end of the year. He said that the course's 14th hole was his favorite, perhaps because he birdied it.
And when Guhne's wife Kelly typed, "How's your coach holding up after this first round?" the senior swiftly replied, "He looked a little nervous this morning. Good thing he didn't have to play."
Not long before his chat room session ended, someone asked Hodge which he'd rather win, the U.S. Amateur or the NCAA championship?
His answer may best explain the Mocs' standing this morning.
Wrote Hodge: "Right now I'd have to say the NCAAs, because it not only affects me but my four other teammates, and I think that would be very special to experience with friends."
For friends and fans of UTC, Hodge and his teammates have made this a very special golf season to experience from the first hole of September to the last hole of May, regardless of how it ends now.