NINETY SIX, S.C. – Charleston Southern junior Jacques Wilson fired a two-under par 70 to finish in a tie for eighth place in Friday's first round of the Big South Championship at The Patriot at Grand Harbor. CSU (289 (+1)) sits fourth as a team, seven shots back of third place and 16 behind clubhouse leader, Campbell.
The Bucs played mostly solid golf in the opening round as they bid for a fourth consecutive top-three finish in the event. Joining Wilson in red numbers was redshirt junior Jake Ezell (T-14th), who played his final ten holes in four-under par to record a 71. Austin James (T-23rd), the defending league champion and Player of the Year, tallied a 73. Junior Art Griffin (T-33rd) contributed a 75 for CSU's other counted score.
Campbell's Jesper Svensson and Thomas LaMorte carded 67's to take the individual lead and put the Fighting Camels atop the team leaderboard at -15. Liberty is just three behind in second place thanks to three sub-70 rounds. Gardner-Webb posted a six-under 282 and is seven in front of CSU, in third place. The Bucs are three shots clear of fifth-place High Point, four of sixth-place Winthrop and five of seventh-place Longwood in a tightly bunched field.
Wilson is one of six players at -2, three strokes behind the co-leaders. He was one over following a bogey at the par-four sixth but that would be his final blemish of the day. Wilson birdied the par-five eighth to go out at level par and added birdies at the par-four tenth and par-five 13th en route to going two-under on the back.
Ezell, a key piece of CSU's NCAA Regional clubs each of the last two years, rebounded from a rocky round one start. Ezell bogeyed No. 2, 3 and 4 to quickly slide to +3 but was outstanding the rest of the way. He birdied No. 5 and No. 9 to make the turn at +2 and put together a clean back nine. The Texan finished with a flurry, birdieing 14, 16 and 18 to put himself in good position to contend.
Ezell's bounce back was emblematic of the Bucs' day. CSU was last in the field early in the day but showed resolve to work its way back into the fold.
"I told the guys after I was really proud of them for sticking with it and grinding it out after a pretty bad start," said CSU Director of Golf Todd Selders. "We are able to get it going in the right direction and now we need a really solid round to get back into it going into Sunday."
James's day was mostly uneventful as the Canadian notched 15 pars. He played a completely clean front nine, highlighting the stretch with a birdie at the par-three seventh to go out at -1. James went +2 on the back side to cap the day in the top half of the field at +1 overall.
Griffin bogeyed five holes but settled down with a 37 on the back nine to salvage a 75. He ended the round on a high note with a birdie at the uphill, par-five 18th.
Derrick Villarreal struggled to an 86 and will look to wipe the slate clean on Saturday.
CSU will tee off round two Saturday between 8:50 and 9:30 a.m. The Bucs will play alongside High Point and Winthrop.