IU/Overton in Hunt at Marshall
HUNTINGTON, W.V. - The one goal for the Indiana men's golf team this weekend at the Marshall Invitational was to continue its momentum generated from a second place finish at last weekend's Johnny Owens Invitational.
So far, the Hoosiers have followed suit. Indiana enters the final 18 holes on Saturday in second place, led by sophomore Jeff Overton, who is tied for first place individually at 6-under-par.
In a field loaded with top teams in the district, including Illinois, Toledo, and Ohio State, Indiana stormed the Guyan Golf & Country Club Friday in the first 36 holes of the event, and currently stand tied with Ball State for second place at 574 (288-286). The two-round total is the eighth best in school history. Indiana's mark is also the team's best 36-hole total in its seven years at the Marshall Invitational, bettering 1997's 579.
At last weekend's Johnny Owens Invitational, Overton, Indiana's top golfer, was thrilled for classmate Heath Peters who won his first collegiate medalist title.
Overton even attributed his second place finish in the event to being motivated by Peters' play. "Heath is an outstanding player and seeing him play so well allowed me to feed off him and play better," he said.
But Overton was clearly focused to regain the spotlight this weekend, and the Evansville, Ind., native is certainly shining brightly after 36 holes.
Overton is tied for the lead in the 84-man field at 6-under-par 136 with Kentucky's Matt Kohn. The 36-hole mark, which is the second lowest in school history, matches Overton's total at the Northern Intercollegiate this past fall. His first round 67 is tied for third best in school history, and also matches his low round for the season.
"Jeff had a lot of confidence coming in to this weekend," said Indiana head coach Mike Mayer. "We really got a solid performance from him today. All day long he was consistent and scoring low."
Mayer was also pleased with the performance of senior captain Ben Davidson. The Indianapolis, Ind., native matched Overton's second-round 69 to finish at 142 (73-69), tied for 10th.
"I couldn't be more pleased to have Ben playing better," Mayer said. The past couple of tournaments he has struggled a bit, but he was back to playing his game today."
Rounding out the lineup for the Hoosiers was senior Aldo Jordan, who is tied for 28th at 147 (73-74), and freshman Scott Seibert at 151 (75-76), tied for 51st. Peters, the current Big Ten Golfer of the Week, struggled in his first two rounds Friday, and sits tied for 64th at 152 (78-74).
On the day, Mayer noted that the weather conditions were favorable for low scoring. The anticipation to see what teams would step up and go low was high.
Stepping up to the challenge was the University of Illinois, last year's runner up. Clearly a contender for the 2003 Big Ten title, the Fighting Illini blistered the 6,456-yard layout in the second round, recording a 273, to finish at 556, 18 strokes ahead of the second-place Hoosiers.
While it would take an absolute disaster for Illinois to lose its lead over the final 18 holes, the Hoosiers are looking at their second consecutive runner-up finish. Still, a top-five finish would mark the best back-to-back performance for the Hoosiers since the 1999-2000 campaign, when Indiana finished second at both the Mauna Kea and Silver Springs Invitationals.
Competing in the final stretch of the season, district rankings, which determine which teams earn NCAA berths, are ever so important for the Hoosiers. Entering this weekend, the Hoosiers are tied for eighth in the district. The NCAA invites the top six.
While Indiana is only getting beat by the 30th-ranked (Golfweek/Sagarin) Fighting Illini, the Hoosiers currently sit on top of 35th-ranked Toledo, and No. 44 Kentucky.
Indiana will conclude the Marshall Invitational Saturday, with the final 18 holes beginning at 8:00 a.m.
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