Tigers set for Tuesday title showdown

Calum McAndrew

As little as 10 days ago, with just two events remaining on its regular-season schedule, Missouri men’s golf’s season looked like it might go by with little to celebrate, as it had failed to record a single top 10 in six events.

Fast forward to Monday, and the Tigers are on the verge of back-to-back top-two finishes.

Missouri will enter the final round of its home tournament at The Club at Old Hawthorne in second place after posting a team total of 16 under after a 9-under 279 in Round 1 and a 7-under 281 in Round 2 on Monday in Columbia at the MU Tiger Invitational.

The Tigers trail Kansas State by two strokes on the team leaderboard. The Wildcats followed a morning 11-under 277 with an afternoon 7-under 281 to hold the overnight lead. The event looks set to be a two-horse race, with third-place Wichita State seven strokes behind the Tigers.

Missouri will chase the Wildcats on Tuesday looking for its first team title since Sept. 30, 2019. Should Missouri hang on for a top-two finish or win, it would be the first time it has recorded back-to-back top-two finishes since Oct. 16, 2016.

Also in the hunt for successful back-to-back events is Missouri’s Ross Steelman.

The sophomore posted the second-lowest round of his Missouri career in Round 1 with a 7-under 65 and followed that with a 3-under 69 in Round 2. He trails individual leader Will Hopkins of Kansas State by a single stroke heading into the third round.

Steelman made two eagles in the first round, the first of which came on the drivable par-4 fourth hole, the second on the par-5 10th. After opening with a bogey in Round 2, he made four birdies and no drop shots to firmly place himself in the title race.

In close pursuit of Missouri’s top-ranked player are Rory Franssen and Yu Ta Tsai.

Franssen will enter the third round at 2-under par after back-to-back 1-under 71s. The graduate student birdied two of his final four holes of the day to get into the red and into the top 10 of the event. He will enter Round 3 tied for ninth, nine strokes behind the overall lead.

One stroke further back is Tsai at 1-under total. He posted a second-round 3-under 69 after a first-round 2-over 74. His day was highlighted by a hole-out eagle on the drivable par-4 8th. He had short-sided himself to the left of the green with his tee shot, but he played a floating, soft-landing pitch that caught enough of the pin to drop.

The pitch-in eagle came one hole after Tsai’s playing partner Robbie Latter (Southern Mississippi) made a hole-in-one on the 258-yard Par-3 7th hole.

Tommy Boone and Walker Kesterson both each had one of their rounds included in Missouri’s team score Monday.

Boone posted back-to-back 72s to enter the third round at even par. The junior had 10 birdies on the day and will enter Tuesday’s play tied for 18th.

Kesterson’s morning round was the second-lowest of the day for Missouri’s starting players. He shot a 2-under 70, but followed that with a 4-over 76 to drop 19 places to be tied for 33rd on the individual leaderboard.

In total, eight Tigers played Monday as they fielded three individuals.

Viktor Einarsson posted Missouri’s second-lowest round of the day in his second 18, with a 4-under 68. It followed a morning 6-over 78 in the first round.

Tolton grad Jack Parker signed for a 5-over 77 and an 1-over 73. Michael Terblanche completed the Tigers contingency at the event, recording rounds of 2-under 70 and 10-over 82.

The Tigers will complete their individual and team-title efforts at their home event at 8 a.m. Tuesday, paired with Wichita and leaders Kansas State. They will begin in a shotgun start format on holes 1-3.