Scottsdale, Ariz. – Connor Howe fired a 5-under-par 65, and Ross Steelman added a 4-under-par 66, each making a pair of late birdies to lift No. 3/4 Georgia Tech into 11th place after the opening round of the Maui Jim Intercollegiate.
In an 18-team field stacked with nine teams ranked in the pre-season top 30, the Yellow Jackets struggled on the front nine at the 7,118-yard, par-70 Mirabel Golf Club and could not find their footing until the final five holes, posting a 5-under-par round of 275.
Tech, which won this event last September at 44-under-par, is in the middle of the pack after 18 holes, but 17 strokes behind leader Auburn, which posted a 22-under-par 258. The second round of the 54-hole tournament gets underway at 11 a.m. Eastern time Saturday.
TECH LINEUP – Howe, a senior from Ogden, Utah, and Steelman, a senior from Columbia, Mo., played excellent rounds and recorded 12 birdies between them Friday. Howe was bogey-free with four birdies through his first 10 holes, matching the low round of his career, while Steelman had just one bogey against five birdies in his round. Howe is in a six-way tie for seventh place individually, while Steelman is tied for 13th.
The Yellow Jackets also counted a pair of 2-over-par 72s from senior Bartley Forrester and freshman Aidan Tran, while junior Christo Lamprecht was a non-counter Friday after carding a 75.
Howe and Steelman each birdied 17 and 18 Friday, while Forrester added another birdie at 17, lifting the Yellow Jackets from near the bottom of the field to 10th place.
TEAM EVENT LEADERBOARD – Auburn’s No. 5 player, Ryan Eshleman, fired a 10-under-par 60 Friday, while the Tigers also counted a 64 from top player Carson Bacha and a 65 from Evan Vo in fashioning its 22-under round, and has a 10-stroke lead over Oregon, which shot 12-under-par 268, Washington and Tennessee posted rounds of 269 (-11) and are tied for third place.
Florida State (270, -10), Arizona State (271, -9), Wake Forest (272, -8), Arizona (273, -7), New Mexico and UCLA (each at 274, -6) round out the top 10 teams on the leaderboard in the 18-team field.
Eshleman became the 16th college golfer to shoot a 60 in competition, and took a three-stroke lead over Wake Forest’s Boyd Evans and Oregon’s Owen Avril, each with a 7-under-par 63. Bacha was one of three players to card 6-under-par 64s (tied for fourth), while Howe is one of six players are tied at 5-under-par 65 (tied for seventh).
Forty-six of the 90 players in the field are under par.
INDIVIDUAL EVENT LEADERBOARD – Wake Forest’s Andrew McLauchlan paced the 37-player individual event with an 8-under-par 64 at Desert Mountain’s Outlaw Course, one stroke ahead of San Diego State’s Tyler Kowack, who shot 65 (-5).
Tech freshman Hiroshi Tai carded a 4-under-par 68 and is tied for ninth place, while junior Aidan Kramer posted a 3-over-par 75 (tied for 25th) and junior Adam Bratton an 11-over-par 83 (37th place).