Green Bay's Jack Ritchay, Middleton's Emmet Herb and the rest of the St. Thomas men's golf team took hump day to a whole, new level Wednesday at the NCAA Division III Championship.
The good news for the Tommies? They got over the hump. Barely.
Ritchay, the team's No. 5 golfer, shot 3-over-par 75 on the Keene Run Course at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Kentucky, as St. Thomas shot its second straight 310 and was forced to wait more than an hour to see if that would be good enough to keep them in the top 18 and make the cut for the final two rounds. In the end, its 36-hole total of 620 gave them a share of 17th place, two shots ahead of St. John Fisher (N.Y.) and Washington & Lee (Va.) and three shots better than St. John's (Minn.) and Transylvania (Ky.).
"Being on the bubble all day (Wednesday) was stressful because you really had to emphasize every shot and really commit to every shot just because we knew how important each one was," Ritchay wrote in a Twitter message to Wisconsin.golf after his team's work over the final three holes — the Tommies' played them in 1-over — was good enough compared to St. John Fisher, which was 4-over its last three holes; and Washington & Lee, which was 3-over on its final three holes.
"Knowing that we’ve got two more days makes us really excited because it means we get two more days to prove ourselves and just enjoy being apart of this team."
Ritchay, a senior from Green Bay Notre Dame who wasn't in the top five last fall when St. Thomas competed in the NCAA Fall Preview at Keene Trace, finds himself as the top Tommie on the leaderboard after two days. His 3-over 147 total has Ritchay in a tie for 14th place, five shots behind co-leaders Cameron Willis of Wittenberg and Zane Brownrigg of Methodist.
"Jack has been absolutely huge with his two rounds this week," Herb wrote in a text to Wisconsin.golf after reaching the halfway mark of the 72-hole event at 4-over 148 in a tie for 20th. "As a (team), we have all struggled off the tee and on a course with really thick rough. It makes it really tough to score, but we have battled in order to keep ourselves in it and make the cut."
After back-to-back rounds nearly 10 strokes over its season average, Ritchay is eager to get two more cracks at a course that hosts the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship.
"Going forward, the motto is to just have fun and play our games we know what we can do as a team and just continue to prove ourselves on every shot," Ritchay wrote. "Just hit fairways and greens and really keep the game as simple as possible."
Ritchay and Herb will be the only Wisconsin golfers competing on the final two days.
Top-ranked Emory, despite an even-par 72 from No. 5 golfer Sam Galloway of Neenah, missed the cut by four shots. The Eagles bounced back from an opening 321 with a 303, but it was not enough to overcome a sluggish first round in which they counted eight double-bogeys and threw out Galloway's 83.
UW-Superior, meanwhile, struggled to a final-round 334 and finished 38th out of the 42 teams. No. 2 golfer Ryan Peterson closed with a 78 to finish tied for 121st, tops among the Yellowjackets.
"Overall, a great experience," Superior coach Paul Eberhardt wrote in a text to Wisconsin.golf. "(It) was a really good challenge for us, course was very difficult with very thick rough. (We) need to try and prepare a bit differently, but (it's) tough when our season is fall based.
"All-in-all, (we're) super happy. Ryan Peterson shot 78 on a course played on the PGA Tour with rough thicker than (it is) when they host the Barbasol."