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September 6, 2011

McElhennon finishes third at Kiawah Island

by Kevin Buczek

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C.-The Barton College men's golf team got off to a solid start in the final round of the 17-team Kiawah Island Invitational during Tuesday's tumultuous weather at the Cougar Point Golf Club, but could not maintain that pace and finished eighth in its season-opening event.

Sophomore Dermot McElhennon (New Bern, N.C.) was the clubhouse leader at 70-73-143 (-1) for more than two hours but was finally edged out by two players in the final group and took third place.

The Bulldogs, ranked 11th nationally, played the first five holes in some four hours because of rain and lightning delays (hurricane warnings were out in the area) and concluded the front nine in only 4-over par. However, as the sun came out, the Bulldogs shot 16-over on the wind-blown back nine. A two-day total of 300-308-608 was not what the event's defending champs envisioned on the par-72, 6,875-yard layout, but they did pass two teams in the standings.

"We just never got anything going either day," 15th-year Barton head coach John Hackney said. "We got the ball off line too many times in the high winds, resulting in way too many penalty shots and missed greens. In the second round, we averaged 31.6 putts, which was just way too high in a quality field. It was a tough start, but we'll bounce back. Sunday's practice round was the first time I have seen our guys play this season, so I am looking forward to getting them fine-tuned before all 10 of our guys tee it up Sept. 19-20 at Lane Tree Golf Club in Goldsboro, N.C., at the CenturyLink Invitational."

McElhennon carded nines of 36-37 for his 73 on Tuesday, and then had to wait it out to see if his score would hold up. Precise iron play was the key for the reigning Conference Carolinas Freshman of the Year, who hit 25 of 36 greens in two days. If not for a plugged bunker lie on the 16th hole Tuesday that led to a double bogey, McElhennon might have captured his second collegiate title. He narrowly missed birdie putts on Nos. 17 and 18 as well.

"I told the guys that the upside of the event is that Dermot is the only one I thought played well and we still finished eighth. Once we get everybody firing on all cylinders, I think you'll see us put up some low numbers and be atop the leaderboards," Hackney said. "We also need to work on hitting the ball a bit lower for those windy days."

Taylor Welborn of tournament host University of South Carolina-Aiken was the tourney medalist at 68-71-139, followed by J.P. Griffin of Georgia SouthWestern at 68-72-140. Tied with McElhennon for third were Liam Ashby of Carson-Newman (72-71) and North Georgia's Howard Duffin (70-73).

Georgia SouthWestern (284-291-585) fired the low round both days and held off Aiken (293-295-588) to claim the team title. Armstrong Atlantic took third at 296-297-593 and Belmont Abbey claimed fourth at 296-298-594. Carson-Newman rounded out the top five at 298-301-599.

Junior Michael Marshburn (Cary, N.C.) tallied Barton's second-best score at 75-76-151, good for 26th place in the 85-player field. Junior Daniel Claytor (Rocky Mount, N.C.) finished 47th  at 77-80-157, sophomore Nicolas Fonseca (Bogota, Colombia) was 53rd at 78-80-158 and sophomore Micah Lawrence (Sanford, N.C.) finished 67th at 84-79-163.