Virginia golf coach Bowen Sargent says he owes a lot to North Carolina State’s Richard Sykes. Today, he’ll be trying to beat his former coach.
N.C. State will take a three-stroke lead over the Cavaliers into the final round of the Bank of Tennessee Intercollegiate at Blackthorn Club.
“He’s been great to me, not only as person but as a mentor,” said Sargent, a former All-American at N.C. State. “He’s certainly helped me in this business along the way. We’re gonna try to beat each other, but we’ll have fun one way or the other.”
N.C. State posted a 296 total, eight over par, on Saturday. That left it at 583. Virginia shot 291 and was at 586.
Virginia, trying to defend its championship from last year, isn’t the only team within striking distance of the Wolfpack. Memphis (586), Wake Forest (590) and Kent State (591) were all within 10 strokes of the leader.
Sykes, the longtime N.C. State coach, was running the show when Sargent played for the Wolfpack.
“I’ve really enjoyed Bowen’s success,” Sykes said. “He’s done a great job at Virginia. He’s an N.C. State guy and proud of it. But that doesn’t mean he’s not gonna try to beat the crap out of us. That’s competition. That’s what it’s all about.
“If they go out and play good and we wind up losing to them, hey we’ll shake hands and leave. That’s what we do in golf. It’s a great sport because you don’t pull against anybody else.”
The Wolfpack were on top thanks to having the top two individual scores in the field. First-round leader Mark McMillen of N.C. State followed his opening 68 with a 72 that kept him out front. McMillen, at four-under-par 140, led teammate Albin Choi by two shots. Choi shot 70 and was at 142.
“I put myself in a couple bad spots off the tee,” said McMillen, a senior looking for his first collegiate victory. “My putter saved me today. I made some good par putts.
“This is very exciting. I’d love to win, but the most important thing is the team, get our team a win and get some confidence going through the fall and into the spring.”
Three other players — Jonathan Fly of Memphis, Jace Long of Missouri and Denny McCarthy of Virginia were one under par at 143.
Virginia’s Ben Rusch signed for a 74 that originally put Virginia one shot behind N.C. State. But when it was discovered that Rusch had signed an incorrect scorecard, he was disqualified for the second round. He will be back in action today.
Tenth-ranked Clemson made the biggest move of the day, firing the week’s low round, seven-under-par 281, after a disastrous 25-over-par opener.
“We didn’t handle the conditions very well yesterday,” Clemson coach Larry Penley said. “Today was a lot better, but we really couldn’t do any worse.”
Host school East Tennessee State made marked improvement over its 25-over first round as well. The Bucs posted a two-over-par 290 thanks to sub-par rounds from freshman Scott Gibson (70) and senior Rhys Enoch (71).
“We played better,” said ETSU coach Fred Warren, whose team moved into 10th place. “It was a little encouraging. I was disappointed how we finished yesterday.”
One point of encouragement was the play of Gibson, who posted the best score in his young collegiate career.
“Scott did a great job,” Warren said. “He came back from yesterday (81) and shot a real solid round. He’s a good player.”
The field will be going off both sides in today’s final round. The top three teams begin on No.1 at 10:10 a.m.