COLLEGE GROVE, Tenn. (May 15, 2017) – Mateusz Gradecki (Oborniki Slaskie, Poland) may not have like how things started, but the Buccaneer senior finished strong en route to turning an average round into a solid start following day one of the NCAA College Grove Regional on Monday from The Grove Club.
Gradecki bogeyed his opening hole on the par-4, 404-yard No. 10, but the all-conference golfer stayed patient and eagled his third-to-last hole (par-5, 570-yard No. 7) of the afternoon to finish with a 3-under-par 69. A birdie on the par-4, 385-yard No. 14 gave Gradecki momentum as he moved back to even, which is where he remained when making the turn to the first tee box. From there, Gradecki carded back-to-back birdies on No. 1 and 2 before giving a shot back on the par-3, 210-yard No. 3. Following three straight pars, Gradecki chipped in from 20 yards out for eagle to finish the round with a 69, which puts him only three shots off the lead.
“I didn’t start well as I bogeyed the first hole of the day, but I stayed patient and kept my head in it. I could have easily lost it after that start, but I knew it was only one hole and there was still a lot of tournament left to be played,” said Gradecki, who is playing in his fourth straight NCAA Regional. “Overall, I played well and hit some good shots. The eagle on No. 7 turned it from being an okay round to a pretty good round. This is not an easy course and you have to be aggressive when the opportunities are there. It was important to get off to a good start, because I have never played well in my previous three regionals, so with being my last one I wanted to put up a good score.”
Gradecki is in a six-way tie for sixth and only three shots off the lead as Vanderbilt’s Patrick Martin (No. 9 via Golfstat) and Clemson’s Bryson Nimmer (No. 46 via Golfstat) are tied for first at 6-under-par 66. Martin and Nimmer – who matched the best collegiate tournament round in the history of The Grove – hold a one-shot advantage over UCF’s Manuel Elvira and Troy’s Cam Norman, while Kennesaw State’s Jake Fendt is two shots back at 4-under 68.
ETSU shot a 7-over-par 295 on day one and is tied for eighth with No. 35 Lipscomb and TCU. The Buccaneers are ahead of No. 25 Missouri (+8) and No. 11 Texas Tech (+11), while being one shot back of No. 23 Georgia (+6) and seven strokes behind No. 12 Clemson – who is in fifth at even-par 288. The top five teams in each regional advance to the NCAA Championship.
Tournament host and top-ranked Vanderbilt hold the team lead at 9-under-par 279. The Commodores lead No. 47 UCF by six shots and Troy by seven stokes. No. 34 Kennesaw State is in fourth at 1-under-par 287.
Joined by Gradecki, the Bucs also got countable scores from junior Cayman Ratliff (Kingsport, Tenn.), along with freshmen Trevor Hulbert (Orlando, Fla.) and Kevin Burns (Canton, Ga.). Ratliff – who was even through his first 11 holes – is tied for 34th at 2-over-par 74. Following a triple-bogey on No. 3, Ratliff bounced back with back-to-back birdies on No. 7 and 8 to finish on a positive note. Hulbert and Burns are both tied for 45th at 4-over-par 76. Hulbert was even with three holes remaining in the round, but he carded a triple-bogey on No. 7 and bogeyed the par-4, 414-yard No. 8 en route to finishing with his 76. Burns – who birdied two of his first five holes – was even-par heading into his final four holes, but the Buccaneer ended with a triple-bogey (No. 7), two bogeys and a birdie.
The Bucs will be grouped with Georgia and TCU in round two as the Blue and Gold tee off from No. 10 beginning Tuesday at 9 a.m. ET.