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Golf finishes second at home

By Paul Fitzgerald     2/19/09 6:00pm

It has been eleven years since the golf team has finished in second place or better in competition, a near-eternity in college sports. But finally, the streak is over. The Owls overcame a subpar start with a strong finish to place second in the Rice Intercollegiate, the team's only home event of the year, which ran from Monday through Tuesday. The tournament, held at Westwood Golf Club, saw Rice shoot a final round even-par 288 to finish only two shots behind tournament champion University of the Pacific. Three of Rice's golfers placed in the top 13 of the individual portion of the tournament.

The Owls will look to build upon their strong finish on March 8, when they resume play at the 24th Annual Louisiana Classic, held at the Oakbourne Country Club in Lafayette, La. The event, hosted by the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, will provide a good opportunity for Rice to continue to improve its record in the march toward postseason play.

Head coach Drew Scott said he expects the Owls to contend for a win at the upcoming tournament.



"The thought's changed a little bit now," Scott said. "It's one thing to tell the guys that they have the ability to win, but it's another thing for them to actually believe it, which I think they do now."

Rice opened the tournament by shooting a 296 (+8) on the strength of junior Chris Brown's three-under-par 69, which tied him for the lead after the first round. Rice's first round score was good enough to put the squad in fourth place, tied with Pacific.

The Owls followed up their first round score with a 294 (+6), putting them in a tie for fifth place heading into the final round. Sophomore Robert Burrow's 69 boosted the squad, which was fifteen shots back of the pack-leading University of Houston at the time. Houston eventually fell apart in the final round, shooting a 308 (+20) and finishing in fourth place.

Rice, on the other hand, saved its best round for last, posting a 288 to finish in sole possession of second place. Senior captain Kyle Kelley carried the Owls on the last day of play, shooting a 69 to end up with the best score of the windy final round. Scott said he was especially proud of Kelley's performance.

"To go out as a senior, the last time he's playing in his home event, with a final round 69 says a lot about Kyle,' Scott said. 'Without his final round performance, we don't end up finishing second.'

Rice's cumulative score of 878, their second-lowest three-round score this entire season, put them four strokes ahead of Liberty University.

Rice's cumulative score of 878, their second-lowest three-round score of the year, put them four strokes ahead of Liberty University, the tournament's third-place finisher.

Brown said the team showed excellent resolve in battling up from fifth place just two weeks after they stumbled to a 15th-place finish at the University of Arizona.

"I was pleased with how we fought back," Brown said. "Everyone played like they had a chip on their shoulder because they knew we needed a strong performance after the Arizona debacle."

Kelley's final-round score put him in a tie for 13th place. Burrow was able to finish in a tie for ninth place with four other golfers. Brown's play was stellar the entire tournament, and the junior finished in second place, his best performance as an Owl. He ended up behind only the University of San Francisco's Ji Hwan Park, who shot a 210 (-6) and didn't post a single round score over par.

Houston's Ben Moser, who led the tournament after two days, crumbled with a final-round 79 (+7).

As this was the team's home event, all of Rice's nine golfers were able to compete, even though only five were eligible to score points. Freshman Tommy Mitchell opened up the tournament by shooting a 74 (+2) in his first collegiate competition. Fellow freshman Ben Thorseth posted a 227 (+11) to finish in a tie for 36th and lead the Rice individuals.

Though he cited many factors that contributed to the team's strong performance, Brown highlighted Scott's coaching job.

"Coach Scott did a great job of picking the five guys who were ready to go," Brown said. "He also did a fine job of walking with the players and being hands-on, which helped me especially, and allowed us to really compete all three rounds."

The Owls will next travel to Lafayette, La. on March 9-10 for the Louisiana Classic.



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