DALLAS, Texas. – K-State saw a season-opening slump extend through the first nine holes of the Trinity Forest Invitational with the team shooting a combined 9-over, including senior leader Ben Fernandez stumbling out to 4-over at the turn. Instead of giving up after the wind and tough pin placements on the back, the Wildcats and Fernandez rallied on the front to climb into a tie for 9th through 18 holes.
“I told myself that I knew I’d been playing well, that I’m playing better than my score at the time,” Fernandez said of his mindset at the turn after closing the back nine with a double bogey, par and bogey.
Fernandez dropped a 15-foot putt for birdie on par-5 No. 1, then got up-and-down on a tough par-3 No. 2, to start a run of a par-or-better to the finish that ended with three birdies and a respectable round of 1-over 71 to sit tied for 25th individually. That tied for the Wildcats’ lead along with fellow senior Jacob Eklund.
“I knew No. 1 was a par 5, I wanted to attack that and make a birdie to bounce back and make sure I shot under par on the last nine,” Fernandez, a native of nearby Southlake, Texas, said. “I made a great putt for birdie, that kind of sparked it. After the up-and-down on No. 2, I didn’t really miss a shot coming in. I’m pretty excited about tomorrow because I found my stride there on the last nine.”
Both Wildcats were five strokes off the lead and just two strokes out of the top-10. Junior George Clarke impressed in his K-State debut, shooting 2-over par 73 and in a tie for 37th, while freshman teammate Riccardo Leo is one stroke behind Clarke, and tied for 52nd at 3-over par 74. Junior Kyle Vance bounced back after a rough start, including three birdies on his final nine holes for a 77(+6) and was tied for 79th.
As a team, the Wildcats shot 2-under on the front nine to improve their first-round total to 291 (+7) and sat tied with Sam Houston State and Denver, just inside the top-10 of the 17-team field. Through 18 holes, K-State was ahead of (46) Marquette, (53) Mississippi State, and (53) Virginia through 18 holes.
“I think overall we played pretty solid,” K-State head coach Grant Robbins said. “If you look at our round, I think we gave away most of our shots during a three-hole stretch in the middle of the round. I thought they finished really strong. They took advantage of some of the par-5s on our back nine today and kept ourselves in position.”
Tournament host and highly ranked SMU and 7th ranked Arizona State sit atop the leaderboard after day one, shooting 5-under par 279. Alex del Ray of Arizona State leads the individual leaderboard, shooting 4-under par 67, one stroke ahead second place.
Play continues tomorrow with round two beginning at 8:00 a.m. (CT) from holes one and ten.
Source: Kansas State Sports