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IUP GOLF: Crimson Hawks take 16-shot lead after first day of Spadafora Invitational

by on April 14, 2014 10:40 AM

BURRELL TOWNSHIP — The IUP golf team has emerged from its winter slumber and is onto its spring roll. On Sunday, the Crimson Hawks had their closest competitors around to bear witness.

IUP shot an impressive 10-under-par 274 to take a 16-stroke lead after the first round of the Cecil Spadafora Invitational at Chestnut Ridge Golf Course.

Three Hawks shot in the 60s, led by tournament leader Max Kirsch, who fired a 5-under 66. Kenny Sames followed with a 67 and is tied with Shepherd’s Joe Burkinshaw for second overall. Zack Kempa came in at 69 and is tied for fourth, and Jack Owen finished with a 72. Brady Moran shot a 76.

IUP is followed in the team standings by California (290), Mercyhurst (293) and West Chester (293).

The second and final round began with a 10 a.m. shotgun start today.

IUP is first in the NCAA Atlantic Region rankings and guaranteed a spot in the Super Regional at Charleston, W.Va., from May 5 to 7. The nine other ranked teams were around to see just what the Hawks are up to. IUP took its first first-place finish of the spring season last Sunday and Monday, winning West Chester’s Dr. Edwin B. Cottrell Invitational by 14 strokes, and did not slow down this week.

“This is pretty incredible scoring,” IUP coach Fred Joseph said. “We’re 10-under par, which is terrific. We’re finally playing well. We didn’t start out the spring very well. We didn’t get very many repetitions out on the golf course. It was a bad winter. It was the same for the other teams, but we played well last week in West Chester. We won there by 14, and we obviously played very well today.”

Kirsch, a freshman from Ebensburg, led the way. He recorded three straight birdies, on Nos. 13, 14 and 15, and was steady the rest of the way.

“It’s a confidence-booster, but I’ve still got to focus on tomorrow,” he said. “I made a couple swing changes the last couple weeks, and it’s really worked out. I’m just plugging away.”

The Central Cambria High School graduate had his first collegiate tournament lead to defend going into this morning.

“I haven’t (held a lead) in my college career, but (I did) in high school,” he said. “I just have to go in and play the same way I did today. It’s a new day; everyone’s playing on the same course.”

It’s a different course from IUP’s home, though. The tournament was moved about 18 miles down the road after issues with greens at the Indiana Country Club.

“We found out about a week prior to this tournament that five greens were closed at Indiana Country Club because of frost and ice damage, and we needed to find another golf course,” Joseph said. “Chestnut Ridge was very accommodating. They were going to aerate; they had leagues here. I told them we needed the course for 19 collegiate teams for a tournament, and they made it happen. They didn’t aerate, they cleaned the course up, they mowed, they rolled the greens, they moved the leagues to another course, and they gave us the golf course for two and-a-half days, which is terrific. I’m very, very appreciative of them bailing us out, because what else are we going to do except cancel the tournament? We didn’t want to do that. Tony Racchini, the pro here, was terrific and very accommodating. A lot of kudos go to him.”

The change in venue wiped out whatever advantage IUP had from playing on its home course, but it didn’t hurt the Hawks on Sunday.

“We didn’t have a home-field advantage in any way; we just played better,” Joseph said. “We played really well. The players are playing better. They’re getting a little tougher. I like the way we have some momentum going into regionals. Maybe it will pay off for us.”

Eli Nellis is a sports writer for The Indiana Gazette.
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