Emilio Cuartero had just pulled off the highlight moment of Missouri’s second day at the NCAA Golf Championship on Saturday, and he didn’t know it.
It wasn’t until strangers began congratulating him on his walk up to the green on his eighth hole that he realized his wedge shot had found the bottom of the hole for an eagle that helped him shoot an opening round of 3-under 67.
“It was a blind shot and it went in,” Cuartero said. “Everyone started telling me, ‘Hey, you hit a really good shot.’ Then I saw it in the hole. It was an exciting moment.”
It also dropped Missouri’s team score to 3 over, putting the Tigers within reach of a spot in the match-play quarterfinals on Tuesday. MU did not finish its second round Saturday.
Of course, the Tigers will face an uphill battle when they return to Prairie Dunes Country Club today. While half of the 30-team field carved up a friendly course for 36 holes on Saturday, the Tigers fell to the middle of the pack after the delayed conclusion of their opening 18 holes.
“We can advance with a good day or two,” Cuartero added.
Stanford has finished two rounds of play and leads at 12-under 548.
The top eight teams will advance to match play on Tuesday. The other 22 will go home.
The plan is for Missouri, and the other 14 teams that have only completed 18 holes, to play 36 holes today and the 15 teams that have played 36 holes to play 18 Monday morning. But if weather prevents teams from playing 36 holes today, tournament officials may choose to cut the field down after 36 holes.
Regardless, the mission is simple.
“Let's plan for 36 (today) and give everything we have,” Missouri coach Mark Leroux said. “Don’t leave anything in the tank and see what happens and see if we can keep playing.”
Cuartero led the way for Missouri, but others played well. Ryan Zech shot a 70, Euan Walker finished at 71, Hunter Kraus recorded a 75, and Wilson Sundvold shot a 76.
Cuartero did his damage with two birdies and an eagle, while recording one bogey.
“I think Emilio played conservative,” Leroux said. “He could have taken a few more chances and a few more risks. He maybe gave this golf course too much credit on an easy day. This is the time to attack Prairie Dunes, when it is soft and wet. He didn't do that, but he never got in trouble by making safe plays. He played well.”
A more aggressive approach could lead to bigger things today.
“The guys really hung in there after a long first day,” Leroux said. “We left yesterday at 4 over and came in here today and got that number lower. That shows that these guys have some fight.”
Stanford’s Cameron Wilson, who shot a 63 in the second round is the leader at 6-under 134.
“It was a fun afternoon,” Wilson said. “I knew I was going to hit the ball well, and I did.”
The course record at this links-style course is 62, but that was shot at lower yardage. Prairie Dunes officials said they couldn’t recall a lower competitive score from the back tees.