Nicholasville, Ky. – The No. 3 Illinois Wesleyan University Titans and No. 2 Huntingdon College Hawks will enter the final round of play of the NCAA Division III Men's Golf National Championships on Friday morning in a tie for first place at Keene Trace Golf Club following a tectonic third round of championship competition on Thursday.
After the tournament field was cut from 42 to 18 teams after Wednesday's second round, the remaining teams returned to the Champion Trace course on Thursday to contest the final two rounds of the National Championships.
The Titans, who held sole possession of first place after the first two rounds of play, turned in a 14-over-par 302 on Thursday in while the surging Hawks fired the best team round of the 18 remaining teams in the third round with a two-over-par 290.
The Titans and Hawks are now tied for first place with identical three-round scores of 880 after 54 holes of play.
No. 6 Guilford College, who finished fifth at last year's national championships at their home venue in Greensboro, North Carolina, also enters the final round within striking distance as the Quakers sit two strokes back in third place with a three-round 882. Guilford carded a 12-over-par 300 Thursday afternoon to stay within the top-three.
A glut of competitors filled out fourth through seventh place after the third round with No. 4 Wittenberg in fourth via a three-round score of 895. Chris Dunne's two-over-par 74 in the third round led the Tigers, which shot 20-over-par in the third round, dropping one spot to fourth place from Wednesday. The Tigers are 15 strokes off of the lead as they prepare for Friday's final 18 holes. Dunne was even-keeled in the clubhouse on Thursday as he appraised the Tigers' standing:
"We've put in all the work over the past year and are treating it like any other tournament; we're not putting any extra pressure on ourselves and are just going out there and playing our games," said Dunne.
No. 5 Methodist, the defending national champion, shot 13-over-par in round three to tally up a three-round score of 899 and take hold of fifth place on Thursday; the Monarchs are four strokes behind Wittenberg and 19 strokes out of first place.
Concordia University Texas continued its noteworthy weeklong performance, shooting a 13-over-par 301 to record a 900 team score after three rounds, moving one stroke behind Methodist. No. 17 Oglethorpe University stands in seventh place with a 904. The Stormy Petrels shot 15-over-par on Thursday, tied for the fifth-lowest team score in the third round.
Sam Goldenring of Williams College continued to surge at the National Championships, turning in a two-under-par in the third round to frame a three-round score of 213. Goldenring was the only player on Thursday to finish with an under-par score as he birdied four of his final nine holes. The junior leads the individual field after improving upon his second-round score at Champion Trace from the day before by four strokes. Goldenring is three-under-par for the tournament as he sets his sights on his first medalist finish at a national championship.
"Just being here as an individual, it's been nice to get one-on-one with my coach (Williams head coach Josh Hillman) and pick his brain in how he would attack a hole," described Goldenring of his strategy. "I came into the week not feeling entirely sure of how my game was but I found something on the range and that's really been clicking."
Huntingdon's Drew Mathers scored an even-par 72 in the third round to draw into sole possession of second place on the individual leaderboard. Mathers produced a balanced round with two birdies and two bogeys on the front nine for a first-half total of 36 and one birdie and one bogey on the back nine for a second-half total of 36. Mathers sits two strokes back of Goldenring for first place with a three-round 215.
Hope College's Josh Gibson rounded out the top three individuals with a one-over-par 73 for a three-day total of 216. Gibson is at even-par for the tournament after three rounds. The Grandville, Michigan native offered a colorful scorecard comprising five birdies, three double-bogeys, and 10 pars.
Addison Manring of Guilford College carded an even-par 72 to turn in a three-day score of 217 and is in fourth place while Oglethorpe's Jacob Arnett shot a two-over-par 74 to share a tie with Manring for fourth place.
The fourth and final round of the NCAA Division III National Championships will begin at 7:30 a.m. with three-man groups each teeing off at the first and 10th holes of Champion Trace. The top-three teams of Huntingdon, Illinois Wesleyan, and Guilford will begin teeing off at 9:20 a.m. through the hour.
For complete information and full scores from the NCAA Division III Men's Golf National Championships, log on to TransySports.com