HATTIESBURG, Miss. -- Graduate transfer Nick Thornton fired an even par 142 and is within striking distance of the leaders after 36 holes as the UTA men's golf team opened its season today at the Sam Hall Intercollegiate at Hattiesburg Country Club.
The Mavericks turned in team scores of 285-289 to finish the first two rounds at 6-over par 574 and sit in fourth place heading into tomorrow's final round. UTA is two strokes behind third place Sam Houston State and six in back of runner-up UTSA. Host Southern Mississippi is the team leader after the first day of competition at 4-under par on their home course.
The 12-team field returns to 6,902-yard, par 71 Hattiesburg Country Club tomorrow morning for the tournament's final round, going off the 1st and 10th tees. The Mavericks are scheduled to start bright and early with freshman Zach Cole going off the first tee at 8 a.m., followed by the rest of the UTA lineup every :09 minutes.
"Today was really a good start to the season," said UTA director of golf Stuart Deane, who noted the Mavs led the tournament in birdies and par 5 scoring. "With high winds this afternoon, the guys rallied to a good finish to keep us within striking distance of the leaders. It was a solid day for Tanner (Gore) and Nick. But, it was great to see a really solid first 36 holes for freshman Paul Gonzalez in his debut. I'm looking forward to the team closing strong tomorrow."
The Mavericks averaged a tournament-low 4.77 on the golf course's par 5 holes and tied the hosts, Southern Mississippi with an event-leading 38 birdies.
Thornton, who graduated from Baylor University in May and is competing in his final year of eligibility as a graduate stuent at UTA, turned in rounds of 72-70 for an even par 142. He birdied his first hole as a Maverick, the 462-yard, par 4 No. 9 before registering four bogeys in his next seven holes.
The Boerne, Texas native rebounded with birdies on the final two holes on the back nine to get back to 1-over. He finished the morning round with a pair of bogeys, two birdies and four pars to finish at 1-over par. Thornton went even par on the back in the afternoon round before finishing at 1-under with a birdie on his final hole of the day
"I didn't feel like it hit it great today, but I did enough to keep myself in it," said Thornton. "I really feel confident right now, like (UTA) is the right place for me to be. The key tomorrow will be to follow the game plan Coach Deane has set for us. If we do those things, we'll be successful."
Junior Tanner Gore and freshman Paul Gonzalez are among the top 20 individuals at 2-over par 144. Gore, a native of El Paso, Texas, carded rounds of 73-71, while Waxahachie's Gonzalez started strong with a 2-under 69 before dropping back with a 4-over par 75 in the afternoon.
Senior Aaron Guanlao (Haslet, Texas) also posted a solid morning round with an even par 71 before a pair of double bogeys set him back to a 4-over 75 in the afternoon. He is among the top 30 finishers at 4-over for the day.
Houston senior Jake Greenspoon posted rounds of 74-73 and finished the day at 5-over par 147.
After starting off on the back in both of today's rounds, the Mavericks pulled to within a couple of shots of the leaders heading into the turn. After dropping nine strokes between holes 2-through-7, a strong finish pulled back a few shots by going 5-under as a team over holes 8 and 9.
Redshirt freshman Zach Cole, who joined Gonzalez in playing his first collegiate tournament, opened the tournament with an impressive even par 71 with a pair of birdies and six pars in his first eight holes. He finished the afternoon at 7-over to complete the first 36 holes with rounds of 71-78 for a 7-over par 149 and is tied for 39th place.
Cole is playing as an individual with his score not counting toward the team totals.
Following the Sam Hall Intercollegiate, the Mavericks travel to Albuquerque, N.M. on Sept. 22-23 for the 63rd annual William H. Tucker Intercollegiate. The tournament is hosted by the University of New Mexico at The Championship Golf Course, which is generally recognized as one of the top public courses in the country and has served as the site of four NCAA Championships.
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