IUP didn’t really expect to trail at all in its home tournament, not after another dominating fall and strong start to the spring portion of the golf season.
But it’s still only halftime, and the Crimson Hawks are down just one stroke going into today’s second and final round of the 50th annual IUP-Cecil Spadafora Invitational.
IUP, the top-ranked team in the NCAA Division II Atlantic Region, fired a first-round 296 on Sunday, one stroke behind first-place Davis & Elkins (W.Va.) in the 15-team tournament.
Indiana native Sean Sweithelm led the Crimson Hawks with a 1-over-par 72, tied for third and one stroke back of the individual leaders, Jamin Smith of Charleston (W.Va.) and Jeff Whiteside of Goldey-Beacom (Del.).
“We expected to do better today, but expectations don’t win tournaments,” IUP coach Fred Joseph said. “You have to play, and it was a level playing field. But we’re certainly not out of it, and I expect to win tomorrow. Look how many basketball games change in the second half. We’re in contention, and we’re going to play well tomorrow. At the end of the day, we’ll see if I’m right or not.”
Freshman Kenny Sames followed Sweithelm with a 73 for the Crimson Hawks. Jack Owen shot a 74, and Zack Kempa, IUP’s top player, came in at 77. Derek Baker added a 78.
“Zack Kempa, our No. 1-ranked player in the Atlantic Region, No. 6 in the country, he shot even-par in the front and just not a good back nine. He shot 77,” Joseph said. “He shot 6-over-par on the back nine, which, you can’t do that. That was probably the worst nine holes he’s played in two years. You can have high expectations and you can be the favorite, but you might not win. You have to actually do it. So here’s probably the best player in the field, he shoots 6-over-par, and that’s not supposed to happen, but when you go out and play, it does happen, and that’s why I say you have to play the game.
“Rankings and past records don’t mean anything. There are upsets every day in every sport. We were a little shaky today. We were primed for an upset, but there’s still a second half.”
Sweithelm, a senior, bounced back from a double bogey on No. 9 to post a team-best score.
“He played great today,” Joseph said. “He had a very unfortunate hole, No. 9, today, which unnerved him. He made a double bogey on 9, which is one of the easiest holes on the golf course, maybe the easiest. He hit it out of bounds. He was pretty shaken up after nine holes, but to his credit, he played the rest of the course in just 1-over-par. He hung in there, he rehabilitated himself and settled his nerves and played terrific after that unfortunate hole.”
Playing as independents, IUP’s Brett Geiser shot a 74, Jared Palubinski a 77 and Chris DiSciullo an 86.
IUP has finished first (out of 11) and fourth (of 24) in its first two spring events after five first-place finishes, including one at the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference championships, in the fall season. The Crimson Hawks have won the Spadafora Invitational, their only home tournament, three years in a row.
“We have high expectations, we really do,” Joseph said. “We target about four events each year as the highlights that we want to win. First is the conference championship in October, which we won. The second is this tournament, our own tournament. The third is regionals, and the fourth is nationals. … I think we are the best team. The best team doesn’t always win, but I think we will.”