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Published: 5/27/2009

Shindler has 2 big shots

BY DAVE HACKENBERG AND MAUREEN FULTON
BLADE SPORTS WRITERS
Oklahoma State's Ricky Fowler, left, and Florida's Billy Horschel walk to the green on No. 14 at
Inverness yesterday. Horschel's 76 was the team's top score as the No. 3 Gators struggled. Oklahoma State's Ricky Fowler, left, and Florida's Billy Horschel walk to the green on No. 14 at Inverness yesterday. Horschel's 76 was the team's top score as the No. 3 Gators struggled.
THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Conrad Shindler said he and his Texas A&M teammates believe in positive energy, but it was hard to determine which provided more fuel yesterday, his hole-in-one at No. 3 or a par-saving putt to close the round at No. 18.

Shindler picked a great time for his first-ever ace, as it came during the opening round of the NCAA Division I men's golf championship at Inverness Club.

"First NCAA, first hole in one," Shindler said. "That's not bad."

He holed his 5-iron shot from 186 yards at the par-3 third hole for a quick start to a round of 4-over 75.

"The pin was up front," he said, "so there's no margin for error with the water [off the right edge]. I took it left edge figuring the wind would bring it in. But the wind never touched it. Fortunately, it kicked just right, kept rolling and went in."

The Aggies' sophomore pulled his tee shot at No. 18 and had a bad lie in the rough. He was lucky to advance the ball into a greenside bunker, but hit a so-so bunker shot that left him with a 15-foot, right-to-left putt. He struck it perfectly to save par.

"You're not playing to win anything today," Shindler said. "You just want to make the top eight [after 54 holes] and advance. It always comes down to one or two shots at an event like this, so it was exciting to finish it off big. That putt really capped it off."

BIG BOMBER: Shindler's Texas A&M teammate, John Hurley, was playing in the next group to finish. He is known as one of the biggest hitters in golf and proved it by hitting his tee shot almost pin high on the par-4 18th hole.

"We were walking off the 17th green and my assistant coach told me to go show off," Hurley said, laughing. "It's a hole that can play to my advantage. I aimed left with the pin right, so I'd have a lot of green to work with to get it up and down."

He did just that for a birdie. Hurley said the hole marker was at 354 yards and that his drive flew "about 350" into the left greenside bunker.

GATORS BAIT: Florida was seeded No. 3 and considered a pre-tournament favorite. Tuesday did not follow the script, though, as the Gators finished the opening 18 holes tied for 29th at 26 over par. Gator ace Billy Horschel's 5-over 76 was the best individual score the team could muster.

Coach Buddy Alexander politely declined an interview, saying, "We're in last place. I don't think there's much of a story here for us."

BIG FINISH: Duke's Wes Roach hit a memorable shot to cap on not-so-memorable opening round, scoring eagle at the 18th hole. He used driver off the tee on the 354-yard hole and had just 58 yards left for his approach. He hit a low chip with his sand wedge, watched the ball land on the front of the green and then track all the way to the back-right pin position before dropping into the cup.

"I was 12-over when we came to the hole," said Roach, who carded a 10-over 81. "I'd been struggling all day, just always off line, and hadn't made a birdie. So I was just trying to get close enough to get a birdie and it went in."

BUCKEYES CHALLENGING: Ohio State, seeded 23nd, is tied for sixth place after one round with 10-over-par 294. Vaughn Snyder and Brad Wright each shot 72 to lead the Buckeyes.

"We competed well," OSU coach Jim Brown said. "It's not easy out there. I thought if we kept each day in the single digits, we'd be in good shape. We came close today."

The Buckeyes scored well despite Ohio State sophomore Bo Hoag, the Buckeyes' top-ranked player, shooting a team-worst six-over par. It was the first time all season his score hasn't counted in the team score, and fourth in his career.

OLD FRIEND: When Michigan qualified for the NCAA championship, the Wolverines felt like they had an "insider" on their side.

UM assistant men's golf coach Chris Whitten was Inverness Club's assistant golf pro for one year from 2005-06 before joining the Wolverines.

"I've seen the course a ton, I know every inch of it," Whitten said. "And that helps for sure."

Although Whitten said the coaches generally take a hands-off approach, the players were eager for info.

"We're there to answer questions if they need help, but we let them play their games," Whitten said. "But there's a comfort level there for sure."

Michigan is in ninth place after the first day.



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