SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Sun Devil Men’s Golf team raved about the difficulty of Grayhawk after their practice round on Thursday, knowing that sharp iron play and driving would be crucial. No. 4 Arizona State posted an 11-over 291 (T21) opening-round of the NCAA Championships with only one scorer carding under par.
In fact, the 7,289-yard par-70 280 Raptor course reared its head on Friday, with no team posting an under-par score. Similar to how majors championship courses play at the pro level, any team card under par may be enough to advance — for now.
For ASU, it was clear on the score card that the experience of last years tournament favored second-year veterans Josele Ballester and Preston Summerhays.
Ballester led the Devils, carding a 1-under 69 (T14) in the opening round. He was the lone Devil to score under par with a bogey and three birdies on the front-nine, then a pair of bogeys and a birdie on the back-nine.
Out of the Gates ️— Sun Devil Men's Golf (@sundevilmgolf) May 27, 2023
Josele Ballester is tied for 14th at the NCAA Championship after shooting -1.
Check out some of his best green work pic.twitter.com/ahfBGa6GrS
Summerhays followed suit with a 1-over 71 (T31) posted an even front-nine before picking up a pair of bogeys and a single birdie on the back-nine.
Devil’s coach Matt Thurmond reminded Ballester and Summerhays on Thursday that their leadership and experience is invaluable, referencing the emotions for first year players.
Freshman Michael Mjaaseth and Luke Potter both struggled. Mjaaseth posted an untidy card, chalked with five bogeys, a double-bogey and one birdie en rout to a 6-over 76 (T115).
Potter walked a fine line on the front-nine, barely avoiding disaster by finishing with back-to-back birdies after scoring bogey-bogey-triple on holes five, six and seven. He was able to escape only 3-over through nine. Potter’s luck wasn’t much better on the back-nine, carding a double-bogey and bogey on back-to-back holes followed by another bogey three holes later. Potter’s 7-over 77 has him tied at 130.
The par-4, seventh hole gave both Mjaaseth and Potter trouble. Mjaaseth shot a 2-over 6 while Potter shot a 3-over 7.
While Ryggs Johnston is not a freshman, he did not compete with ASU last season at Grayhawk, making this his first start on golf’s biggest stage. He was able to manage the front-nine, only collecting a pair of bogeys before running into trouble after the turn. There, he had four bogeys with only one birdie, which came on the par-4 14th hole. He finished his opening round with a 5-over 75 (T104).
The Sun Devils struggled on par-4s, with 15 of their 24 bogeys or worse coming from those holes.
No. 5 Texas Tech is 2-over 282 (T2) after round one. No. 6 Stanford is 10-over par 290 (T17).
An important nugget to keep in mind is that in each of the last two years at Grayhawk, a team from outside the top-15 advanced into match play. In both instances that team teed off in the afternoon during round one, then improved their score by 10-plus strokes in the the morning round on day two.
Arizona State will look to collect itself and recapture the magic that worked in the Thunderbird Collegiate and Regionals as the boys tee off at 6:32 a.m. Saturday.