With 36 of 54 holes in the books, Kimberley’s Jared du Toit has sights set on both the individual and team titles heading into final-round action at the 2015 NCAA Big Sky Conference Men’s Golf Championship.
“Solid play should be able to do it,” du Toit said over the phone from Angels Camp, Calif., following his second round Tuesday afternoon. “Play smart golf. I feel like we’re doing the right things. If we continue to do so, we should come out with the championship.
“Going in with the lead I’m definitely going to be, I wouldn’t say conservative, but definitely favour the inside of the green or the middle of the green on a lot of approach shots. Maybe take a little bit more of a conservative line on a couple tee shots as well. We’ll see where it goes from there.”
du Toit fired a three-under 69 Tuesday afternoon, good enough to vault him into first place on the individual leaderboard by a two-stroke margin.
With a final-round tee-off time set for 8:51 (Pacific time), the Kimberley native will look to fend off the competition and claim his second NCAA tournament victory of the season Wednesday at Greenhorn Creek Golf Resort in Angels Camp.
“For me, I try to take my mind off it,” du Toit said of having a target on his back as the leader heading into the final day. “When you start thinking about it, you get a little too in your own head about it. Being with a bunch of guys, we kind of talk about other stuff, have a good time and really just try and take our mind off the round.
“Come game time [Wednesday], we prepare and we’re ready to go come tee-off.”
Devon Purser (Weber State), Nic Booth (Southern Utah) and Aaron Cockerill (Idaho) are in hot pursuit of du Toit heading into the final day as they sit in a three-way tie for second place at even par after Tuesday’s second round.
du Toit, a former Selkirk Secondary School student, paced his University of Idaho Vandals team to a combined four-over 580 and first-place standing through two of three rounds.
As he did during Monday’s opening round, du Toit came out firing to start the second day of competition Tuesday morning.
The Vandals sophomore birdie three of his first four holes on the front nine, en route to a three-under 33 to kickstart his day.
“It’s definitely a good way to set the tone for the rest of the round,” du Toit said. “When you do get a couple putts to drop coming out of the gate you’re almost relieved a little bit that you’ve seen a couple putts go in and you can keep going.
“Coming out of the gate hot was huge. It’s the best way to do it…When you do come out hot, it takes the weight off and you can build off that.”
The back nine caused a bit of trouble for du Toit and most of the competition on opening day, but having seen that half of the track, the Kimberley native wasn’t about to repeat his opening-day 38 on the back.
With a birdie on the 188-yard, par-three 15th hole and a bogey on the 485-yard, par-five 18th, du Toit scrapped his way to an even 36 to finish the day three-under.
“I thought I hit the ball really well [in round one], I just kind of made a couple mental mistakes of leaving myself on the wrong side of the hole,” du Toit said. “[In round two] I did a good job of really focusing on where I wanted my ball to be and I did a good job of executing that.
“I just played solid, pretty well top to bottom.”
While du Toit paced his Vandals crew atop the leaderboard, his teammates did their part to keep Idaho in complete control of the team lead at Greenhorn Creek.
After two rounds, the Vandals lead the pack by a wide margin, with second-place Sacramento State sitting 12 strokes behind.
“Throughout the year we’ve done a good job of, not really ham-and-egging it, but some guy will have a tough go every once in a while,” du Toit said. “If that guy does have a tough go, the rest of the team usually steps up pretty well. Good teams do that and we’ve continued to do that all year, which has been really nice to see.”
Cockerill carded a second consecutive 72, to sit at even par with a share of second place individually after 36 holes.
Not far behind is Daniel Sutton, who followed up an opening-day 73 with an even-par 72, leaving him in a tie for fifth place on the individual leaderboard.
Rylee Iacolucci rounded out the Vandals top-10 crew, finishing his second round with a two-over 74 after opening the tournament with a five-over 77 on Monday.
Idaho’s Ryan Porch turned around his tournament by carding an even-par 72 in round two after battling to a 10-over 82 on opening day. He sits in a tie for 18th heading into the final round of play.
All that remains between du Toit, the Vandals and the 2015 Big Sky Conference Men’s Golf Championship is 18 holes.
Mother Nature will do as she pleases and the superintendent will have his own say when it comes to pin placement. With that in mind, du Toit is keeping a level head as he looks forward to the final round.
“If I do see a couple shots the wrong direction, don’t panic,” du Toit said. “Don’t get in my own head. Don’t get rattled. Play shot by shot. By the end of the round [Wednesday], you can’t do anything once you’ve signed the scorecard. Hopefully it will be enough.”
The final round of action is slated to get underway at 7:30 .a.m (Pacific time), with du Toit in the 10th group and scheduled to tee off at 8:51 a.m.
du Toit is one of four Canadians competing for the 2015 Big Sky Conference Men’s Golf Championship. He is joined by Cockerill (Stony Mountain, Man.) as well as Jack Sedgewick (Newmarket, Ont.) and Sameer Kalia (Campbellville, Ont.), both of Binghamton University.
Sedgewick sits 14-over for the tournament and in a tie for 30th.
Kalia turned around his conference championship by firing a two-under 70 on day two, a 15-stroke improvement on his opening-round 85. He climbed the ladder into a tie for 21st after round two.
The men’s golf championship features 40 competitors from eight NCAA institutions. Competing for the Big Sky Men’s Golf Championship are: the Binghamton University Bearcats (Binghamton, N.Y.), University of Hartford Hawks (West Hartford, Conn.), University of Idaho Vandals (Moscow, Idaho), University of North Dakota (Grand Forks, N.D.), University of Northern Colorado Bears (Greeley, Col.), Sacramento State Hornets (Sacramento, Calif.), Southern Utah University Thunderbirds (Cedar City, Utah) and Weber State University Wildcats (Ogden, Utah).
The Big Sky Conference is a Division I NCAA conference.
Greenhorn Creek Golf Resort is located in Angels Camp, Calif., approximately 130 km southeast of Sacramento.
The 6,801-yard, par-72 track re-designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., opened in 1996 and wanders through the rolling Sierra Foothills, featuring 100-year-old oak trees above underground diggings left behind from the California Gold Rush of 1848 to 1855.
This year marks the first NCAA Big Sky Conference Men’s Golf Championship since Weber State University claimed the 2002 conference title. Men’s golf was absent from Big Sky Conference athletics from 2003 through 2014.