Missouri golfers 2 shots off the pace at NCAA regional in Columbia

05/16/2014 11:32 PM

06/03/2014 10:17 AM

Arkansas surged into a tie for the lead Friday in the second round of NCAA regional play at The Club at Old Hawthorne, but host Missouri held its ground and sits only 2 shots off the pace with one round remaining.

“It would mean a lot for our program,” Tigers coach Mark Leroux said of the prospect of a regional championship. “Just to be able to say, ‘Here’s a program that won a regional.’ It would be great. There are some very good golf teams, so it would mean a tremendous amount to our program and our kids.”

Speaking of a Missouri kid, senior Hunter Kraus did some surging of his own and will sleep on the lead after shooting a 3-under 69. He shot 68 on Thursday and, at 7-under overall, owns a 1-shot edge on three golfers.

“He’s nervous as can be,” Lexroux said. “He’s feeling the tension. There’s a huge elephant in the room, because he’s got the lead.”

Arkansas’ Taylor Moore, Oklahoma State’s Jordan Niebrugge and Arizona State’s Max Rottliff are tied for second at 6-under, while Missouri junior Ryan Zech — who followed up Thursday’s 69 with a round of 70 — is tied for fifth at 5-under with LSU’s Smylie Kaufman.

The Razorbacks scorched Old Hawthorne for a course record 18-under par (270), moving from a tie for fourth place and 17 shots behind Oklahoma State into a tie for first place at 17-under entering Saturday’s final round.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys, who matched the Tigers’ old course record (272) in the opening round Thursday, cooled considerably.

Still, top-seeded Oklahoma State — which shot 1-under collectively, the sixth-best round of the day — played well enough to remain tied with Arkansas.

Missouri is third overall at 15-under and has all but assured itself a top-five finish and a berth in the NCAA championship final, which begins May 23 at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan.

“It would be pretty unimaginable to have (three teams) come from that far back to catch us,” Leroux said.

Tigers senior Emilio Cuartero checked in with a second straight 70 and found himself in a five-way tie for seventh at 4-under, while freshman Euan Walker’s two-day 1-over total has him tied for 21st.

“It’s rewarding, and it’s great for those guys,” Leroux said of having three golfers in the top 10. “It’s like a coach’s dream at the end of a collegiate career for a student-athlete. It’s almost storybook. Although, we still have another round to go.”

As a team, Missouri owns a 14-shot lead on fourth-place LSU. More important, the Tigers own an 18-stroke edge over sixth-place Iowa State in the chase for a berth at the national tourney.

Kansas State’s Daniel Wood is among five individuals vying for one berth at national. Wood is 6-over after three rounds and trails Central Arkansas’ Pep Angles by 6 shots.

The second round was delayed an hour by frost on the course, and a similar delay is expected today before the final round.

To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to tpalmer@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.

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