PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. –- Four-time Champion Campbell University of Buies Creek, North Carolina, led by Kyle Akins’ 1-under-par 71, handled the gusts swirling around PGA Golf Club with relative ease Tuesday to build a six-stroke first-round lead in the 16th PGA Jones Cup.
Campbell posted a 293 total on the Wanamaker Course, leaving two-time defending champion New Mexico State University (299) in its wake among a 19-school PGA Golf Management University field.
Coastal Carolina University, University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Sam Houston State University share third at 300; while Florida Gulf Coast University is sixth at 301.
Campbell moved into position to add an unprecedented fifth title to previous Jones Cup triumphs in 2007, ’09, ’12 and ’14. The Camels displayed the scoring balance to bring a big smile to PGA Professional Ken Jones, in his 20th season as Campbell PGA Golf Management Director.
“We have some seasoned veterans with us and experience really counts,” said Jones. “With the wind coming up today, it’s knowing the right clubs to hit. We started a little shaky but settled down well at the end. Our Tournament Series, which we hold every weekend at Keith Hills Country Club in Buies Creek, has paid dividends. Our guys really work hard to make it into the top 10. They already know what pressure is before arriving here.”
Akins, a fifth-year senior from Chesapeake, Virginia, actually was making his Jones Cup debut. He missed two previous starts and made the most of his final opportunity to compete at PGA Golf Club.
Akins was supported by sophomore teammate Luke Polland of Minneapolis (72), the brother of 2016 Assistant PGA Professional Champion Ben Polland. Teammates Ian Illig of Homer City, Pennsylvania, and Ben Schlesman of East Douglas, Massachusetts, both fifth-year seniors, each turned in a 75.
The 36-hole competition, featuring a 95-player nationwide field, concludes Wednesday.
New Mexico State, which rallied from three strokes to win in 2016 and from two behind in 2015, will need something extra Wednesday to catch Campbell. If the Aggies are to mount such a charge, it will be behind senior Cole Lorenz, who is making his fourth consecutive appearance.
The 22-year-old from Billings, Montana, turned in a 3-under-par 69, which was his best round in four trips to PGA Golf Club. It gave him a two-stroke advantage over Akins in the individual medalist standings. “I definitely know the golf course,” said Lorenz. “This week, I’ve been trying my best to familiarize the new guys with how to handle the pressure and the golf course instead of playing the other competitors.”
Lorenz collected birdies on Holes No. 1, 7, 8, 12 and 13 to offset bogeys at Nos. 2 and 4. His 5-iron second shot to the 508-yard, par-5 seventh hole came to rest 25 feet from the hole, from where he two-putted for birdie. “That birdie got me going,” said Lorenz. “Then I made a nice birdie at No. 8, and started to feel more comfortable.”
While he’s worked to complete his degree, Lorenz has been able to test himself by finishing tied for 29th in the 2016 New York State Open and competing in this year’s New Mexico Open. “Those experiences certainly helped, and I felt better about coming here this year,” he said.
University of Maryland Eastern Shore senior Tiana Jones, a native of Alliance, Ohio, and the only woman competitor, posted a 79. All participating universities in the PGA Jones Cup are schools accredited by the PGA of America to offer the PGA Golf Management University Program for aspiring PGA Professionals. There are currently more than 1,800 students enrolled in the program nationwide.
The PGA Jones Cup
Begun in 2002 by Mississippi State University, the PGA Jones Cup is named for the first PGA Golf Management University Program Director at Mississippi State, Dr. S. Roland Jones, who served from 1985 until his passing in 1997. The event annually provides a platform for participants to display professionalism, integrity, character and camaraderie; all characteristics Dr. Jones instilled in PGA Golf Management students.
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