The finest college golfers in the nation spent more time playing cards than golf on Friday at Prairie Dunes Country Club.
More than 150 golfers from 30 teams were in town for the NCAA Golf Championship, and none of them played more than 11 holes.
Half the field didn’t tee off. Perhaps they were the lucky ones. The 78 golfers that showed up around sunrise for their morning tee times spent the day killing time in the clubhouse, playing cards, watching TV and taking naps while uncooperative, rainy weather delayed the tournament for longer than eight hours. After two lengthy delays, play was finally suspended at 6 p.m.
Play is scheduled to resume at 7 a.m. Saturday. Tournament officials said golf will be played until sundown. The goal is to catch up to the tournament’s original timeline of 36 holes after two days.
Like the rest of the teams, Missouri did not get much of a chance to get out of the gate.
The Tigers were in 13th place at 9 over par, and that’s ahead of several teams that did not play at all. Two of MU’s golfers played three holes, two played four, and one played five. Emilio Cuartero played three holes at even par.
Texas freshman Beau Hossler summed up the feelings of just about every competitor when he strolled through the clubhouse near the end of the day.
“I have been here for 12 hours and I have played seven holes,” Hossler said, shaking his head. “Lots of fun.”
Or maybe the day could best be summed up by the Purdue golfers that — out of boredom — began spinning quarters on a table, trying to see who could spin them the longest.
Even Oregon’s Zach Foushee, who holds a 1-shot lead at 3 under through six holes, seemed ready to start fresh.
“I have never experienced anything like this,” Foushee said. “This is the longest weather delay I have ever been a part of. I warmed up three times and got pulled off the course twice. It has been a long day.”
Still, enough golf was played to set a foundation for the rest of the tournament. Sixteen players broke par, and the list of players chasing Foushee is long. Six players walked off the course at 2 under.
Oregon leads the team competition at 3 under, while Iowa State and SMU are 1 shot back. South Carolina is 1 under, and Texas is at even par.
“It’s so early,” Foushee said. “I mean, there is so much golf still to play. It is so early that it feels like nothing has happened. It’s a good start, but there is a lot of work left to do.”
Players and tournament organizers will both face work the rest of the tournament, with a jam-packed schedule that was supposed to cram in a full 18 holes each of three straight days before cutting the field to eight teams and 40 players after Sunday.
No one knows how many holes will be played on Saturday.
Clearer weather is projected, but a chance of rain remains in the forecast. That could create different playing conditions for teams that play at different times. It could also force tournament officials to make a cut before 54 holes are played.
Mike Carter, chairman of the NCAA Golf Championship, said he has never dealt with these weather demands.
“This wiped out more golf than any other tournament I have been a part of in 15 years,” Carter said. “Fifty-four holes would be optimistic. It all depends on the weather.”
Carter’s head sank when informed Hutchinson had been experiencing a drought before the tournament began.
“It’s frustrating for me, because I am familiar with this course, and I was very excited for these collegiate athletes to play this course,” Carter said. “To have this weather set in and shorten their time here is very frustrating.”
No one seemed more annoyed than Texas junior Kramer Hickok. He recorded two birdies and six pars through eight holes, and said he was in top form.
“It’s frustrating when you work real hard to get to this point and you get in a good groove on the golf course,” Hickok said. “I was 2 under early, and being pulled off the course makes it hard to stay in a groove. But all in all, I am proud of where I am. I just have to keep a good attitude.”
That will be key for everyone who returns to Prairie Dunes on Saturday to finish the opening round, especially if poor weather continues.
“We have got some challenges out there right now,” Texas coach John Fields said. “We will have to come back tomorrow and play well and really play well when we get the chance to.
“Prairie Dunes is such a great golf course. It’s a shame that they have to deal with this, but that is golf. That is competition. That is weather. There is nothing you can do about it. You just have to keep a good attitude and do your best with it.”
To reach Kellis Robinett, send email to email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @KellisRobinett.