April 25, 2011
By Art Garcia for UTAMavs.com
FORT WORTH, Tex. - Paul McConnell will take the even-par 72 carded Monday in the opening round of the 2011 Southland Conference Men's Golf Championship any day of the week.
Getting there, though, was quite the adventure at a windy and unpredictable Waterchase Golf Course.
"It was a roller coaster in the middle," the sophomore admitted with a smile.
Was it ever. The four-stretch hole to finish the front and start the back featured an array of shot-making that saved McConnell's round. Looking back, he could have lost it, instead of finishing the day tied for second with six other golfers, including UT Arlington teammate Hunter Brown, one shot back of leader Ryan Werre of UTSA.
McConnell needed to make an uphill 15-footer to save par on No. 8 after laying up. He birdied No. 9 with a sizable putt down the ridge of the green. No. 10 featured back-to-back shots in the hazard before knocking a 3-iron on green and a sinking a 20-footer for bogey. A birdie followed on No. 11 from almost the back end of the green.
"From there it was steady and then I just bogeyed 18," McConnell said. "I was happy with my round. I was hitting the ball really good and I was putting well, which is what I wanted to do."
He would have been tied for the lead if not for the bogey on No. 18. The heavy winds in the area were blowing into the tee box on the finishing hole.
"Really tough," he said. "On 18 you have to lay up short of the water, you can't really go for it, so that leaves about 140 [yards] if you don't cut it too close to the water. I laid up too far and I had a 6-iron in, which pretty much cost me a bogey."
UTA coach Jay Rees, however, would like to see the gusts return Tuesday and Wednesday. He feels the Mavericks have the edge under such conditions on their home course.
"I hope the wind blows the next two days," Rees said. "It's supposed to. That's what gives this course teeth, gives it character. And if the wind blows, I feel we have an advantage just because these guys are used to grinding it out and that's what it's going to take."
McConnell heads into the second day in the hunt for the individual title, while realizing what his performance means to the team overall. UTA is leading the tournament at 3-over.
"If we play good individually and you're top 20 individually, we're probably going to win," he said. "That's what you have to focus on. Also, as a team if you don't take too many risks and play safe here and there, then we'll probably be at the top."
Staying off the roller coaster would be nice, too.
"I'm hoping for a little more calmer round tomorrow," McConnell added. "I don't want to hit two hazards in a row. I can't wait to get out there."
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