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Ellis posts 3rd career top-10 finish to lead Eagles at West Texas A&M event

OC junior Taylor Williams chips onto No. 17 green on Tuesday during the final round of the Ryan Palmer Foundation Invitational at Tascosa Golf Club.
OC junior Taylor Williams chips onto No. 17 green on Tuesday during the final round of the Ryan Palmer Foundation Invitational at Tascosa Golf Club.

AMARILLO, Texas (Sept. 17, 2013) – Facing a field full of NCAA Division II South Central Region teams for the first time this season, Oklahoma Christian more than held its own in the Ryan Palmer Foundation Invitational.

The Eagles, ranked 24th in Division II, finished third in the 16-team tournament, hosted by West Texas A&M at Tascosa Golf Club. On Tuesday, OC completed its rain-delayed second round with a 281 team score, then posted a final-round 288 to finish at 846 – 18-under-par.

Colorado School of Mines, which was 26th in the voting for the preseason Division II coaches’ poll, won the tournament with a team score of 831, while Wayland Baptist (Texas) – the only NAIA program in the field – was second at 842.

The tournament field included squads from the three conferences that make up the South Central Region – the Heartland Conference, the Lone Star Conference and the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. With OC entering the second year of the NCAA membership process, coach David Lynn made it a point this fall to schedule more tournaments that featured Division II squads.

“I’m pleased,” Lynn said. “I want it to be competitive and it’s very competitive. We kind of know where we stand now. … Division II golf is very good. It’s very good in this area. There are a lot of good golfers and we kind of know what we need to do.”

OC senior Johnny Ellis was in contention entering the final round after a second-round 3-under-par 69 on the 6,538-yard course, which was softened by heavy rain on Monday afternoon.

He opened his final round with three straight birdies and closed with a 73 to finish at 7-under 209 for the tournament, in eighth place in the 90-man field and three shots behind the medalist, Michael Lee of Colorado Mines. It was the third top-10 individual finish of Ellis’ career.

“I’m really happy with the way Johnny Ellis came out and played this week,” Lynn said. “He kind of had a breakthrough week, I would say. … He showed a lot of poise. It’s the first time he’s really been in contention at a college tournament, so I’m proud of Johnny this week. It’s a big move, especially for him, with it being his senior year. I’d like to see him get going this fall.”

Sophomore Sam Johnston shot a second straight 72 in the second round before closing with a 69, which included an eagle on the par-5 No. 13. He finished tied for 19th at 3-under 213.

Taylor Williams also finished under par for the tournament at 2-under 214, posting rounds of 72 and 74 on Tuesday. Alasdair Dalgliesh ended his second round with an eagle on No. 1 – his final hole of the round – to finish at 68, then finished with a 72 to close at 217, tied for 33rd.

OC’s No. 5 player, Trey Payne, also finished at 217 after posting rounds of 73 and 74.

“Johnny and Taylor both had career-lows in a college tournament, as far as (being) under par,” Lynn said. “I’m definitely happy with the way the three, four and five played this week. If we get that kind of play out of them, which I think we will, we’ll vastly improve as the year goes on.”

The Eagles finished the highest among the five Heartland Conference schools in the field. St. Mary’s (Texas) was fourth at 857, followed by Rogers State in ninth at 864, Lubbock Christian (Texas) in 10th at 867 and Newman (Kan.) tied for 13th at 875.