Eyes On The Prize

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Patience and persistence paid off for the Florida State men’s golf team, which closed Friday’s second round of the Tallahassee Regional with a four-hole which has the Seminoles on the cusp of an NCAA Championship berth.

The 12th-ranked Seminoles played the final four holes at 8-under par and enter Saturday’s final round in third place, just four off the lead at Golden Eagle Country Club.

“We weren’t making anything early in the day, but the guys were hitting the ball well,” Florida State coach Trey Jones said. “What I’m most proud of is just the way that they were business-like out there. We kept saying, ‘Be patient. Be patient.’ Sure enough, when they got on the holes they could pick on, they did. … I’m proud of their discipline and composure.”

Senior Chase Seiffert birdied three of his final four holes to close with a four-under round of 68 and is one shot off the tournament lead at 10-under. Sophomore Daniel Berger and freshman Rowin Caron contributed two birdies each in the turning holes and finished at three-under 69, while freshman Hank Lebioda checked in with a 70.

With a 10-under round of 276, one shot better than Thursday’s score, the Seminoles are 23-under for the tournament. North Florida, paced by tournament leader MJ Maguire (-11), leads at 27-under. Washington is second at 25-under.

Oregon currently sits fourth at 14-under, with Georgia Tech and South Florida tied for fifth (-12) and Oklahoma in seventh (-11). Only the top five teams advance to the May 28-June 2 NCAA Championship at the Capital City Club in Atlanta, Ga.

Though well-positioned to advance to the NCAA Championship for the 23rd time in program history, the Seminoles have designs on claiming Florida State’s first regional championship.

“The team was good,” Seiffert said. “Everybody played well and we executed what we needed to do: get out here, play well and get ourselves in position to win tomorrow … Top five is what we need, but we’re looking at first place. This is our home course. There’s no reason we shouldn’t come out here and compete tomorrow for first place.”

“We’re 3-0 in the state of Florida this year and we want to make it four,” Jones said.

FSU’s strong finish to Friday’s round made that possible on a day when the leaderboard bunched up. Collectively the Seminoles were just 5-under par through the first 14 holes. Their fortunes began to change at No. 15, the reachable, 527-yard par-5, with three birdies and an eagle.

“We all played well on the back-nine today,” said Caron, who bounced back from an opening-round 74 by leading the team most of the day. “I had a bad finish yesterday to the round. I pretty much played the same as yesterday. I played pretty steady, just didn’t make a lot of putts, so I didn’t go very low. I had a good finish today.”

Caron had birdies at Nos. 15 and 18 to close out his 69. Seiffert birdied Nos. 15, 16 and 18 after slipping an eagle putt past the cup on the closing hole. Berger finished his 69 birdie-birdie.

“We did not get a hot round today,” Jones said. “We had everybody 1- and 2-under for a while. Most of the teams had a 5- or 6-under walking around here. We didn’t get that today.”

What FSU’s 10th-year coach did get was clutch play when it mattered most.

“We kind of use the term, ‘Man up and hit a shot,’” Jones said. “The bailout is not an option. The easy play is not an option. You just have to man-up and hit it.”

“That’s something we pride ourselves on and coach has built us all year to be a tough team and be able to play in tough conditions,” Seiffert said. “We’re able to fight when we need to fight.”

With one more solid round, the ‘Noles will continue their fight on college golf’s top stage.

“We’re here for 54 holes,” Jones added. “We haven’t done a thing yet.”

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