Kaiser, Bulldogs learning at Folds of Honor tournament

Published 2:40 pm Tuesday, October 4, 2022

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PERKINSTON — No. 9 Mississippi Gulf Coast made the long trip to Michigan to learn about playing golf in the same part of the world as the NJCAA championship next spring.

After the first day of the Folds of Honor Challenge in Allendale, the Bulldogs learned that and more. Gulf Coast is tied for fifth in a field filled with top four-year schools at their respective levels. The Bulldogs finished the first two rounds at 34-over, with host Grand Valley State leading the pack at 7-under on The Meadows, their home course.

“We got a lot out of today,” Gulf Coast coach Brad Thornton said. “There was some good play throughout the day, but the golf course is very difficult and I think we got a little bit of a realization of what we need to work on because the conditions are similar to what we’ll see at nationals. There was a lot of good that came out it, because we definitely could have laid down halfway through the day, and they fought back and made it a respectable play.”

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Gulf Coast is tied with South Carolina Beaufort, which is ranked second in the NAIA coaches poll. The Bulldogs are five shots behind Keiser, the defending NAIA champs who are ranked first. Defending NCAA Division II champion Lee is 10 shots ahead of Gulf Coast, and Findlay, the 24th-ranked NCAA Division II team, is 15 shots behind Grand Valley.

Andrew Zielinski (Fr., Ocean Springs/Ocean Springs) leads the Bulldogs after shooting 74-72 to get to 4-over, tied for seventh.

“Drew played exceptionally throughout the day,” Thornton said. “I think everybody had a struggle with it being 36 holes in one day on a golf course being as difficult as it was. He got off to a good start and was able to finish strong today. We’re looking for the same thing from him tomorrow.”

Chase Kaiser (So., Natchez/Cathedral) is tied for 26th after shooting seven shots better in his second round. Alessio Graziani (So., Johannesburg, South Africa/Beaulieu College) and Jackson Wise (Fr., Pontotoc/North Pontotoc) is tied for 32nd, and Will Burnham (Fr., Jackson/Jackson Prep) bounced back from an 82 in the first round to shoot 2-over 73.

The only other junior college in the 10-team field, Muskegon, is 42 shots back of MGCCC.

Gulf Coast will be back on the course at 10:30 local time (9:30 CT), with the start pushed back because of frost. The Bulldogs’ goal is to improve positions, but also keep on learning ahead of their next trip way up north to Plymouth, Ind., in May.

“We came here wanting to get as much experience as we could playing golf in the area, and I think we’ve done that,” Thornton said. “We want to stay in the top five. Realistically, if we could get in the top three or four, that would be fantastic. I think this opened our guys’ eyes into what it takes to be successful at the next level, as well as what it will take to be successful at the national championship.”