TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State senior Chase Seiffert didn’t finish his opening round of the NCAA Tallahassee Regional the way he would have preferred, but his six-under par 66 on the firm and fast Golden Eagle Country Club course was just what the Seminoles needed.
Seiffert led the way for the 12th-ranked Seminoles, who closed out Thursday’s round at 11-under par and alone in third place, five shots behind tournament leader North Florida.
“I got off to a good start – two-under through three (holes) – and that just set the pace for the round,” said Seiffert, who had an eight-under, bogey-free round going until the final two holes. “I kept hitting it close and rolling in putts.
“We put ourselves a couple shots back of North Florida, but we’re right where we want to be on our own course.”
With 18 of 54 holes in the book, Florida State is well-positioned to grab one of the top five team positions and accompanying trip to the NCAA Championship, May 27-June 2 at Atlanta’s Capital City Club.
“We did what we needed to do,” FSU coach Trey Jones said. “We got off to a good start. We didn’t want to put ourselves in a hole out here. We’re playing to win this golf tournament. We want to be the best team in Florida and there are a few other Florida teams here and obviously you have a top-five team in Washington. And we all know Georgia Tech and their history in college golf.
“We feel like we’re in a good spot. We let some get away right there on the last hole, or last two holes, but there’s a lot of golf left.”
In addition to Seiffert, who is tied for second individually, the Seminoles counted rounds of two-under 70 from sophomore Daniel Berger and senior Doug Letson, as well as freshman Hank Lebioda’s 71, for a first-day total of 277.
North Florida, paced by first-round leader MJ Maguire’s seven-under, 65, leads at 16-under 272. Top-seeded and sixth-ranked Washington is second at 12-under, 276. Georgia Tech, USF and Oregon are tied for fourth at eight-under, 280, three shots behind the Seminoles.
Seiffert helped get the ‘Noles off to a quick start with birdies at Nos. 1 and 3, then began his charge up the leaderboard with three birdies over a four-hole stretch in the middle of his round. His two-putt birdie from the front of the green at No. 9, a 586-yard, par-five, provided a big lift as he made the turn at four-under 32.
“I was swinging good, hitting it where I was looking and I was rolling in some putts,” Seiffert said. “I knew I was going to be aggressive on the back 9.”
He followed with a birdie at No. 10, then strung three together from Nos. 13-15 to take the lead at 8-under; one shot off course record pace. The birdie binge included a lengthy putt from the back fringe at No. 14 which Seiffert said, “turned a possible bogey into a birdie.”
While Seiffert was surging his Seminole teammates were putting in a workman-like effort. Letson overcame a double-bogey at No. 14 with birdies at Nos. 15 and 18 to get to two-under. Berger, the nation’s seventh-ranked player, battled from the start after taking a double-bogey at No. 3. He finished with birdies on three of the final five holes, including a delicate chip from a hanging lie at No. 18, to close out his round of 70.
“I definitely did not play my best golf today, but it’s nice to know that when you don’t play your best you can shoot a score,” Berger said. “I just kind of hung in there and grinded. Not every day are you going to play good. You’ve just got to stick with it.”
And that was perhaps the best sign for the Seminoles. Thursday marked the first competitive round since the ‘Noles faltered down the stretch at the ACC Championship on April 28.
“In golf you have to have a short memory,” Berger said. “It hurt us pretty bad. We really wanted that ACC Championship. We’ve cleared our minds and come out here with the mindset that we want to get through to nationals and that’s all what we’re thinking about right now. We’re not looking at the past. We’re looking at the future.”
Jones is anxious to see what the immediate future holds. Paired with players from UNF and Washington, the Seminoles will tee off Friday at 9:15 a.m.
“We need to come out tomorrow and get some of the guys who didn’t get a lot going today, maybe they can get some putts (falling),” Jones said. “Hopefully we can have a great round. Today was a good round, but these guys are capable of a little bit better. …
“At this point I still feel like it’s in our control. We control our destiny. If we play like I know we can play, we’re going to be OK. That’s the objective in the first round, to keep it in your court where you can control it and if we play well, everything will be fine.”