Randolph Rolls on Day One

MADISON – Jonathan Randolph bogeyed his first two holes and then acted nothing like a true freshman. He quickly got things together and shot 66-69 at the par-72, 7,305-yard Reunion Golf and Country Club to lead a strong field of players and also his team to a third-place spot after 36 holes.

Tuesday's play in the Bank of America Intercollegiate is one 18-hole round for each team.

"It's been a long season, so I'm used to rocky starts," said Randolph, talking like an upperclassman rather than a 19-year-old collegiate rookie. "It just really doesn't phase me anymore. I knew I had 34 more holes to play today (after his two opening bogeys). So I just took it one at a time."

Randolph had been sick last week and wasn't sure how strong he would be today and how he would hold up. But he came through even better than he could have anticipated.

"I played well," said the Brandon native and Jackson Prep alum. "I hit the ball pretty average but putted extremely well."

He said he got his putting straightened out Sunday during the College-Am at The Reunion.

"Both Coach (Ernest) Ross and Coach (Jonathan) Dismuke saw something and gave me a tip," he said. "That really helped me."

Randolph, who led a tournament earlier this season at Central Florida with a first-round 65, was happy to be playing in metro Jackson again. He said he felt right at home, and was comfortable on a course he'd played several times in recent years.

"I like the course a lot," said Randolph, by all accounts Mississippi's best junior golfer recently after lettering six years at Prep, winning the 2007 Mississippi Private School Association title, and the 2007 Mississippi Junior Championship by 10 shots. "It really fits my eye. There are some fairly wide open looking shots. But if you don't hit them in the right spots, it's a lot harder golf course."

The Rebels as a team shot 11-under par, 280-285—565. They trail co-leaders UT-Chattanooga (563) and LSU (563) by two strokes in the 15-team field.

Freshman Johnny Delprete, competing in his second tournament for the Rebels, carded a 71-72—143 to tie for 17th. Senior Kyle Ellis is tied for 21st with a 72-72—144. Junior Jesse Speirs rebounded from an opening round 76 to shoot 72 for a 148. Senior David Marino rounded out the Rebels' scorecard with a 71-79—150.

Ross said Randolph is having a tremendous year and continues to improve.

"Jonathan had a great round and kind of carried us with him today," Ross said. "A 66 in the morning after a bogey-bogey start was fantastic. He's had a great spring. I'd put him in the top three freshmen in the SEC, and that's a pretty strong group to be in considering how many good freshmen there are in this league."

Dismuke said the Rebels hope to make even more positive things happen on Tuesday.

"We played well today but we didn't get as much out of our round as we could have," said the second-year UM assistant coach. "We're in position that if we play well Tuesday, then we have a chance to win."

The Rebels begin play at 8:50 a.m., and the final group of the day tees off at 9:30 a.m.

Randolph said he hopes to cap off a very good first day with a victory for his team on day two. He believes the year has taught him how better to handle just such a situation.

"When I first started this season, my mindset was more about the team, and I was always asking how the team was playing," he said. "That really took away from the essence of me and the course. It doesn't really matter how the team's doing. You can't put that type pressure on yourself. It's really just me and the course."

On Tuesday, Randolph hopes to handle this particular course just like he did on Monday.

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