No. 6 Mississippi Gulf Coast remains on top of the team and individual leaderboards again Thursday after the third round of the NJCAA Division II Golf Tournament in Arizona.
The Bulldogs' lead narrowed to two shots, but their 12-over has them in front of host Mesa at Longbow Golf Club after 54 holes. They have a seven-stroke lead over second-ranked Murray State heading into Friday's final round.
"We played OK. It was tough conditions again but we battled," Gulf Coast coach Tommy Snell said. "Those other two teams were making a move on us. Not many people caught too many shots on us. Mesa was the only one. You expect them to make a run at you at home."
Colin Troxler (So., Hahnville/Luling, La.) shot a 2-under 69 for the second straight day to finish at 5-under. He leads Gulf Coast's Jackson Wedgeworth (Fr., West Jones/Soso) by three shots. Wedgeworth is second, with only one other golfer under par. Southeast's Noah Hoffman is 1-under.
"I hit it good, but I just left myself in great places to get up and down," Troxler said. "I left myself short of trouble, and I made a lot of par putts. That really helped."
Wedgeworth, the first-round leader, bogeyed four of his first five holes Thursday. He clawed his way back into contention by focusing on something besides himself.
"I knew I had the team to play for," he said. "I could have easily laid down right there if I was just playing for myself, but I knew I had four other guys who were depending on me. I was finally able to get some putts to go in."
He got one shot back on eight, then started a run of three birdies in four holes on 14. He had a chance to get in red numbers on the final hole.
"It just goes to show you what kind of player he is and how much guts he has," Snell said. "He fought back to even part. That was huge for us. That just shows a lot of fortitude."
Wyatt Adkison (So., East Central/Hurley) is tied for 26th at 11-over. Jonathon Newman (So., North Pike/Summit) was 9-over and is tied for 29th. Logan Leary (Fr., Gonzales/Dutchtown, La.) shot his third straight 76 and is tied for 44th.
Gulf Coast will be in the final groups to tee off Friday. The Bulldogs have finished in the top four the last three years, but have never won the national title.
There's no secret to what will have to happen to make that happen.
"Just keep doing the same things we're doing: taking good lines into the greens, picking good targets and clubs off the tee, hit it to the right areas and make some putts," Snell said. "That's what it's going to boil down to, who makes some putts."
Online leaderboard: http://results.golfstat.com/public/leaderboards/gsnav.cfm?pg=team&tid=13305
NJCAA Division II Golf Tournament
Longbow Golf Course
7,050 yards, Par 71
Round 3, Thursday
Team top 5
|1. Gulf Coast||277-293-294—864 (+12)|
|2. Mesa||287-292-287—866 (+14)|
|3. Murray State||287-291-293—871 (+19)|
|4. Tyler||285-301-292—878 (+26)|
|5. Illinois Central||296-299-297—892 (+40)|
|6. South Mountain||293-394-309—896 (+44)|
|7. Southeast||313-289-298—900 (+48)|
|8. Meridian||297-303-301—901 (+49)|
|9. Kirkwood||300-301-303—904 (+52)|
|10. Parkland||300-305-305—910 (+58)|
|1. Colin Troxler||70-69-69—208 (-5)|
|2. Jackson Wedgeworth||66-74-71—211 (-2)|
|T26. Wyatt Adkison||70-74-80—224 (+11)|
|T29. Jonathon Newman||72-76-78—225 (+12)|
|T44. Logan Leary||76-76-76—228 (+15)|