ALPHARETTA, GA.--You can have a field that includes the top 11 teams in the Golf World/Nike Golf men's coaches' poll, play on an highly decorated layout like the GC of Georgia's Lakeside Course, offer all sorts of amenities to the competitors, even provide them caddies. You can do all that, yet there's still one thing officials at the U.S. Collegiate Championship just can't control.
For a third straight year, ugly weather greeted players at the USCC, with temperatures reaching only into the the mid-40s for Monday's second round and winds gusting 20 to 25 miles per hour, making the intermittent sprinkles that also fell feel even more chilly. By mid-afternoon, when teams were starting to finish up for the day, there were more spectators standing around the fireplace inside the clubhouse than beside the 18th green.
While Round 2's average score was 76.74 (compared to 74.28 during Round 1), it would have been higher if Stanford's David Chung hadn't posted a six-under 66, carrying the Cardinal from a tie for fifth place entering the day to atop the team leader board. The 19-year-old freshman made seven birdies to one bogey, tossing in par-saving putts of 10 and 12 feet on the 16th and 17th holes to hold things together.
"If I shot even par I would have been really happy," said Chung about the tough playing conditions, the 66 interestingly enough becoming his lowest college round thus far. "When you've got these kind of conditions, you just have to stay patient. If you lose your focus on any shot, it can ruin your round."
"He helped us out a lot," noted Stanford coach Conrad Ray, whose squad finished the day with a two-over 290 for a three-over 579 total, four shots clear of Texas A&M and six shots better than Pac-10 rival Washington. "You know how if you can get one guy with a hot hand, you can really make a move."
Ray preached to his players at their team meeting Sunday night that with difficult conditions expected, even-par scores would be just fine. Aside from Chung's sub-par effort, Stanford sophomore Steve Ziegler chipped in with a one-under 71.
Chung and Ziegler both moved up to a tie for third individually at three-under 141, trailing 36-hole leaders Erik Flores of UCLA and Bud Cauley of Alabama by two. Flores, a senior, followed up an opening-round 65 with a two-over 74 while Cauley, a freshman, shot a 69 Monday.
"I definitely feel like I left some strokes out there," said Flores, who turned in even par after making a seven-inch putt for eagle on the par-5 ninth hole, but had three three-putts on the day and closed with bogeys on the 17th and 18th holes. "I feel comfortable with my ball striking. That's going to be big tomorrow if we have the same conditions.
Indeed, as if the teams didn't get enough of the cold weather today, conditions aren't expected to improve much for Tuesday's final round. Sorry, but Mother Nature has a mind of her own.