ATHENS — Georgia maintained the team lead and Bulldogs Spencer Ralston, a former Gainesville High standout, Davis Thompson moved into a tie atop the individual leaderboard during Tuesday’s second round of the NCAA Athens Regional at the UGA Golf Course.
The Bulldogs fired a 4-under 280 and are at 4-under 564 through 36 holes. Georgia leads No. 9 Duke by a single shot. The Bulldogs and Blue Devils are the only two teams under par. No. 4 Vanderbilt is third at 2-over 570, followed by Liberty at 14-over 582. There is a four-way tie for fifth – the final spot to advance to the NCAA Championships – between Tennessee, Memphis, Nevada, and SMU at 17-over 585.
Georgia is in position to earn the Bulldogs’ third win of the spring campaign.
“We just want to play solid and take care of what we can take care of and not worry about what else anybody else is doing,” Georgia head coach Chris Haack said. “We’ll just go out with the same game plan – try to play as well as we can to win and own our own course. (Winning) will certainly boost their confidence and get them a little more pumped up, I guess, but right now, we're just going to take it one step at a time and try to try to go play solid.”
Georgia got off to a sluggish start, playing the first three holes at 6-over as a team. The Bulldogs quickly bounced back to play the rest of the front side at 9-under and turn at 3-under. Georgia moved to 4-under through 10, 5-under at 11, and 6-under by 13 before giving back a couple of strokes late in the day.
“Early this morning, it was cold,” Haack said. “Early on, there was a lot of dew and water on the fairways and the greens. It was a little challenging early but then, as it dried out, it was nice to have this kind of weather to play.”
Both Ralston and Thompson carded 2-under 69s for the second-straight day and freshman Will Kahlstorf matched that effort on Tuesday. Georgia also counted a 2-over 73 from freshman Trent Phillips.
Kahlstorf vaulted 17 spots on the leaderboard with his round, climbing from 32nd to 15th. Trent Phillips is tied for 24th at 145, and Trevor Phillips, who shot 7-over 78 on Tuesday, is tied for 57th at 153.
Thompson was 2-over through three holes but birdied five of his next 14 holes to move to 3-under through No. 17. He wrapped up his day with a bogey at No. 18.
“I just grinded it out today,” Thompson said. “I had another slow start. I was 2-over through three and made three birdies on the front coming in. I had a couple birdies on the back and had a bogey on 18, but was still happy to get it under par.”
Ralston bogeyed No. 2 but quickly moved into red numbers with birdies at Nos. 4, 6, and 7. He covered the back side at even, mixing a birdie at No. 13 and a bogey at No. 16 with seven pars.
“The good weather was a factor, and I definitely felt a little more stress free,” Ralston said. “I thought I hit the ball really solid today. I just didn’t hit it very close. I thought I did give myself a lot of opportunities, which is always good on any golf course.”
Kahlstorf was 3-under through 17 holes before closing with a bogey. His only other bogey came on No. 2. The Athens native’s birdies were at Nos. 4, 6, 11, and 17.
“I’ve been working on putting a little bit more before the round today, and the only difference was there was no wind today,” Kahlstorf said. “That helped for how far you hit shots.”
The Bulldogs will be paired with Duke and Vanderbilt for the third-straight day, teeing off from No. 1 in waves between 7:30-8:14 a.m. ET. Parking and admission to the tournament are free.
Following Wednesday’s final round, the top-five teams and the low individual who is not a member of those teams will advance to the NCAA Championships, which will be on May 24-29 at The Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Ark.
“We just want to play solid and take care of what we can take care of and not worry about what else anybody else is doing,” Haack said. “On any given hole, things can go haywire and all a sudden, 2-3-4 guys make big numbers. It can change the leaderboard quite drastically, so it's certainly always in the back of my mind. It might not be in the back of theirs, but it’s always in the back of my mind. I'd like to see us get off to a better start. We just hit three really hard holes, and it's just difficult to get started on those three holes coming out of the chute. The last two days, we haven't played very well early, and I'd like to see us play better coming out the gate.”