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Freshmen go low for Bucs; Go breaks tourney record, equals ETSU mark

Joe Avento • Updated Oct 14, 2017 at 7:29 PM

They’ve been playing golf at the Bank of Tennessee Intercollegiate since before Shiso Go was born, and the East Tennessee State freshman did something never done before at the annual tournament at Blackthorn Club.

Go set the tournament record on Saturday, firing a nine-under-par 63 that included nine birdies and nine pars.

The Bucs also got a seven-under-par 65 from another freshman, Jack Rhea, and shot 15-under-par 273 as a team. That was 24 strokes better than their opening round.

“Jack and Shiso, I knew coming in as freshmen they were good,” ETSU coach Fred Warren said. “And they played great today.”

Three players had previously shot 64 in the tournament, most recently Derek Bard of Virginia in 2013.

Go’s 63 also equaled the ETSU single-round record, originally set in 2005 by Rhys Davies and tied in 2015 by Gudmundur Kristjansson.

Go and Rhea had the best 1-2 punch in school history, surpassing the 65-65 shot by Davies and Cian McNamara in Puerto Rico in 2007. And it came from two youngsters playing in their third collegiate tournament.

The spectacular performances left the 18-year-old Rhea in a tie for fourth place at nine under par and Go, a 19-year-old from Japan, tied for seventh at eight under.

Missouri’s Hayden Buckley assumed the individual lead with a 64 that left him 12 under par for two days. He had a one-shot lead over Louisville’s Simon Zach and Penn State’s Charles Huntzinger, the defending individual champion.

Go and Rhea helped the Bucs move up on the leaderboard into seventh place, but they’re still likely out of contention — 21 shots back — thanks to a nine-over-par opening round.

Penn State increased its lead by shooting 16 under par. That left the Nittany Lions at 27 under par and with a chance of threatening Virginia’s record of 35 under, set last year. It also gave them a nine-stroke advantage over second-place Missouri heading into Sunday’s final round. Kent State and Louisville are both 10 back.

ETSU’s 15-under round tied for the the second-best of the day.

“It’s a nice comeback from yesterday,” Warren said. “To be honest, it caught me off guard yesterday because we actually had some low rounds in qualifying.”

Austin Carter, yet another freshman, shot 72 for the Bucs, while sophomore Kevin Burns’ 73 was the final counting score.

Go didn’t have a bogey on his card, but his round wasn’t flawless. One of his 63 strokes was a penalty shot after his tee shot at the par-four 11th hole hit a tree and went into a creek. After taking a drop, he managed to knock his next shot onto the green and make the putt for par.

Go ran into more potential trouble at the difficult par-3 16th hole when his tee shot found sand. But a nifty blast out of the bunker and a saving par putt left him seven under with two holes to play.

And he played them both perfectly.

Go knocked his approach shot at the par-4 17th to within eight feet and calmly made the birdie putt.

Then, on 18, with history in the balance, he tugged his approach shot a bit and it stopped pin high, some 20 feet left of the hole.

He made the putt, but this one didn’t come calmly.

“The only time I got nervous was on the birdie putt on 18,” Go said.

When the ball rolled into the bottom of the cup, Go let out an emphatic fist pump. Asked what he thought when the final putt fell, all he could say was “Yes!”

It was the lowest round Go has ever shot.

Meanwhile, Rhea was playing on his home course and he equaled his best round ever on the Arthur Hills-designed layout.

With friends and family watching in droves, Rhea’s group had the largest gallery since Matt Kuchar played in the inaugural event for Georgia Tech 20 years ago.

“When I started making more birdies, more people started coming out,” Rhea said. “It was fun.”

Rhea, who had eight birdies and one bogey, played behind Go, so he had his eye on his teammate while they chased history.

“I saw him making putts all day,” Rhea said. “It was kind of making me go because I wanted to beat him.”

The Bucs will be grouped with East Carolina and UNC Wilmington for Sunday’s final round.

“Even though we’re not in the position we’d like, today was very encouraging,” Warren said.

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