March 8, 2010
Humacao, Puerto Rico - Nate Irvin stepped to the tee of the 151-yard, par-3 signature 12th hole and deposited his tee shot into the cup for his first ever hole-in-one in a competitive round, highlighting a record-tying performance by the USC Upstate team as the Spartans fired a 279 in the first round to take a 15-stroke lead at the Palmas Del Mar Collegiate Classic Monday at the Flamboyan Golf Course.
The 279 turned in by Upstate tied the single-round school record shot in the second round of the Frank Landrey Invitational in Oct., 2007. Irvin's ace is the second for an Upstate golfer in competition, nearly two years to the day when Tyler Tucker recorded a hole-in-one at the Samford Invitational on March 10, 2008. Irvin, a junior from Easley, S.C., pured a 9-iron from the tee on the Flamboyan's signature hole and the ball found the bottom of the cup for the ace.
"I hit the same club that I hit during the practice round," said Irvin. "Coach told me the distance, I committed to the shot and made a good swing. When it went in, I didn't really know what to do. It was kind of surreal (walking up to the hole to collect his ball). It is definitely the most beautiful hole on the course."
Irvin's heroics led to a 1-under-par 71 on a day when all of the Spartans played well. The duo from Gaffney, S.C., led the way as Josh Gallman carded a strong 4-under-par 68 to take the individual lead and Matthew Hopper followed one stroke behind with a career-best 69. Brian Horton, from nearby Boiling Springs, matched Irvin's 71 to give Upstate four scores under par and a 9-under-par team total. Irvin and Horton are tied for sixth. Michael Lawrence added a solid 77 on the day.
"We were at 15-under as a team with three to play," said Upstate head coach Todd Lawton. "However, we had a tough stretch of finishing holes where we gave some shots back. We started out of the gate with everyone making birdie on the first hole, which was a par-5. We talked all week about how we need to finish rounds and play the par-5s better, and we did that today. There was a lot of good execution. We practiced hard on Saturday and it put us closer to where we needed to be on the course. We have two more rounds to play. You can't win it on the first day, but you can put you in position not to."
Upstate 279 was 15 strokes better than the 294 turned in by Rollins. Johnson & Wales was third at 296 and was followed by Bowling Green (299), Old Dominion (299), St. John's (303), Seton Hall (304), Wilmington (305), Ohio (305), St. Thomas Aquinas (306), Loyola-Chicago (306), Indianapolis (309), James Madison (312) and Fort Hays State (334). The second round of the 54-hole event will be played Tuesday with the tournament finishing Wednesday.