Wheeler’s 66 keeps Chants in hunt at Augusta tourney

Coastal Carolina freshman Ben Wheeler became just the seventh Chanticleer on record, and first since the 2010 NCAA East Regional, to shoot a 66 as the Chants are in seventh place in the 14-team Insperity/Augusta State Invitational, played at par 72, 7,143-yard Forest Hills Golf Club.

Coastal posted its best 36-hole total of the year by six strokes, shooting 287-284 for a 5-under par 571. Coastal was in fourth after the first round Friday, but dropped three spots to seventh despite knocking three strokes of its score in round two.

Wheeler joins Zack Byrd, Dustin Johnson, Sam Lyons, Dan Obremski, Dale Ketola and Rafael Vera to shot at least 66. (Byrd owns the CCU record, shooting 63, and shot 66 or better three times.) Wheeler shot a 3-over 75 in the first round to stand in 52nd. However, he birdied three of his first four holes before suffering a bogey on his sixth hole. He would eagle the par 5 sixth hole before getting a bogey on the par 4 eighth. Wheeler bounced back with an eagle on the par 5 ninth and got to as low as seven under with birdies on his 13th and 16th holes. He would suffer a setback with a bogey on his 17th hole before finishing with a par to move up to 15th (tied) with his 66.

However, Wheeler is second among the Coastal quintet as senior Charlie Winegardner is tied for ninth, shooting 70-70 for a 4-under par 140. In two previous trips to Forest Hills, Winegarder has never shot better than 73 and finish no better than 80th. He started the day on a negative as he bogeyed the par 4 15th but he rallied to post birdies on five of his next nine holes to get to 4-under. He would bogey two of his last four to card his first 70 of the day. In round two, Winegardner once again posted a bogey on the par 4 15th to start his round before getting birdies on the 17th and 18th holes to get to 1-under. He was back to even par with a bogey on his sixth hole, but an eagle on the par 5 sixth got him to 2-under. Winegardner would bogey his 12th hole but got that stroke back with a birdie on the par 3 13th to finish with another 70. After finishing his last tournament 70-72, Wingardner is 6-under par over his last 72 holes.

Top-ranked Texas and two-time defending NCAA Champion Augusta State lead the impressive field, which features 10 teams in the top 50 and the 15th-ranked team in NCAA Division II (USC Aiken). The Longhorns have four players ranked among the top 50 individual in the nation, including the top two. Texas and #48 Augusta State are tied at 17-under par (559). Rounding out the top 10 is #44 Illinois (564), #37 TCU (566), Tennessee (568), #49 South Carolina (569), Coastal (571), #26 Oklahoma State (574), #31 Baylor (575) and Virginia Tech (577). Others ranked among the nation’s top 50 include #39 SMU, which is tied for 11th (578), and #14 Clemson, which is tied for 14th (582).

Sebastian Soderberg was on pace to join Winegardner and Wheeler inside the top 15 individually, but back-to-back double bogeys at the end of his second round saw the junior go from 2-under par to 2-over. Soderberg shot 70 in the first round and was in fifth place. He started with a birdie on the par 3 14th and would tally five birdies in the round, versus three bogeys for his 70. With the 70, Soderberg reeled off five straight rounds of 71 or better, including three 68’s to win at Furman last time out. Soderberg started his second round with a birdie on the 14th again and would reel off eight straight pars. He would bogey the par 4 fifth but bounce back with birdies on six and nine. The round ended on a negative note with double bogeys on his 16th and 17th holes.

Freshman Peter Valasek turned in two rounds of 74 for a 4-over 148 and classmate Andre Dorn carded rounds of 73-75 for his 4-over 148 as the duo are tied for 59th. Valasek started on the 17th hole and would off-set four birdies on the front nine with two double bogeys to stand at 1-over through 11 holes. He would bogey the par 4 10th and par his last six for his 74. In round two, Valasek has 13 pars with two birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey. Dorn only had six pars in the first round with six birdies, five bogeys and a double. In round two, his card was cleaner, getting four bogeys on the front nine before getting a birdie on his final hole, the par 5 17th, for his 75.

The event will conclude Sunday with 18 holes.

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