PLYMOUTH, Ind. — Mississippi Gulf Coast's Brice Wilkinson is a bit of a perfectionist. That trait fuels his golf game, while at the same time making it hard to please himself.
He shot a stellar 2-under 70 Wednesday at of the NJCAA Division II Men's Golf Championship to share the lead after three rounds with Walters State's Alex Hodge.
"I'm not happy because I left a lot of shots out there," the sophomore from Madison said. "There's two par-5s on the back-nine, and I made par on both. I missed easy birdie putts. The front nine was a grind, but the back nine, I came back and ended up shooting 2-under, which I am happy and not happy with at the same time."
He and Hodge are at even-par, one shot ahead of South Mountain's Leon D'Souza with a gap of five more shots to the next bunch of golfers.
Barring a miracle, Gulf Coast won't repeat as national champions. The Bulldogs are in fourth place, 25 shots behind South Mountain, which leads at 24-over. Walters State is four shots back, and Gulf Coast trails Kirkwood by a single shot for the final trophy spot.
Jon Hopkins (Fr., Hockerill Anglo-European College/Bishop's Stortford, England) shot 1-under 71. He had two birdies on the front nine, but four bogeys. After he bogeyed 11, things turned around with four birdies down the stretch.
"It was a solid back nine," he said. "I haven't played golf that solid in a while. I could have gone a lot lower than I did on the back-nine. I started with a three-putt on 11."
Winds at Swan Lake Golf Resort gusted as high as 30 mph, wreaking havoc on golf shots. That makes the scores by Hopkins and Wilkinson that much more impressive.
Wilkinson birdied 4 and 5, then strung together three straight bogeys. He also turned things around on the back nine.
"That's a really good score," coach Tommy Snell said. "On the front nine, that wind was howling. He ran into a stretch of three bogeys. That's why he's not happy, but then he birdied three out four holes. That's another solid round by a great player."
Wilkinson has a shot to bring home Gulf Coast's third national championship in as many years. Colin Troxler won medalist two years ago in Mesa, Ariz., and the Bulldogs won the team title last year in Foley, Ala.
"I'm going to be aggressive," he said. "That's all I've got to be. I think if I can bust 70 I'll be at the top. This course is playing really difficult. Anything below that is gonna be a win."
NJCAA Division II Men's Golf Championship
Swan Lake Golf Resort
After three rounds
|1. South Mountain||299-295-294—888 (+24)|
|2. Walters State||297-291-304—892 (+28)|
|3. Kirkwood||308-299-305—912 (+48)|
|4. Gulf Coast||310-305-298—913 (+49)|
|5. Black Hawk||300-309-309—918 (+54)|
|6. Parkland||311-315-300—926 (+62)|
|T1. Brice Wilkinson||72-76-70—216 (E)|
|T11. Jon Hopkins||78-76-71—225 (+9)|
|T52. Jake Crosson||76-78-82—237 (+21)|
|T69. Miles Jackson||86-77-78—241 (+25)|
|T82. Carter Nicholson||83-83-79—245 (+29)|
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