MUSCLE SHOALS, Ala. — South Atlantic Conference Golfer of the Year Carlos Leandro had an uncharacteristic showing in the opening round of the 2018 NCAA Division II Men’s Golf Championships, firing a five-over 77 to finish the round in a 13-way tie for 69th place.
Leandro opened with a par on the 611-yard first hole and had a second shot on No. 2 that led to a five-foot birdie putt. The next five holes, however, saw Leandro post three bogeys and two double bogeys to move to six-over for the round.
The senior rebounded expertly, going one-under with a birdie on the par-four 11th and 10 pars the rest of the way, including overcoming a short tee shot on the course’s signature hole, the par-three 18th with soaring views of the Tennessee River below, to close his round on a high note with dozens of spectators looking on. But the damage was done, leaving Leandro buried down the leaderboard with 36 holes remaining to crown an individual national champion.
Sunday’s practice round was the first time Leandro had walked a full 18 holes since the final round of the South/Southeast Regional on May 9 due to an illness.
“Usually, if you’ve missed a lot of time and preparation, it’s not the first day back that’s the challenge,” said Head Coach Howard Vroon. “It’s the second. Carlos had a great practice round yesterday. When you have a round like that, your expectations increase, which is when you begin to struggle physically because you haven’t been able to prepare the way you’d like to. Day Two is when it begins to catch up with you. And that’s sort of what we saw today in the first nine holes. I don’t remember Carlos ever going back to the tee after losing a golf ball. He did that twice, in the first six holes, then had to take an unplayable lie on No. 7 so he was definitely struggling physically early in the round.”
Leandro, the 11th-ranked player in Division II, ended the round tied with fellow individual qualifier and SAC counterpart Tom Forster of Carson-Newman. Lincoln Memorial was the league’s lone team representative and ended the round in 10th, with Sam Broadhurst leading the way at one-under for the day.
All competitors are chasing Florida Southern’s John VanDerLaan, the nation’s top-ranked player, who opened up a two-shot lead on the field with a six-under 66. No. 1 West Florida has the team lead by one stroke at nine under.