HOWEY-IN-THE-HILLS, Fla. — Considering where the Wittenberg men's golf team stood at the turn on Day 1 of the 2012 NCAA Division III Championships, it is nothing short of remarkable where the Tigers stand heading into the fourth and final round after shooting up the leaderboard from 14th to seventh on Day 3.
The Tigers made a 12-stroke improvement on their second go-around on the challenging El Campeon Course at Mission Inn Resort, and the resulting 297 was the fourth-best team score carded in Round 3. After making the cut by just one stroke a day earlier, Wittenberg completed the third round in contention for a top-five finish or better.
Oglethorpe continued to run away from the field, posting the best score for a third straight day to take a commanding 16-stroke lead into the final round. Top-ranked Methodist is second, nine strokes ahead of Transylvania.
That's where the field tightens up, however. Redlands is in fourth place, but Wittenberg is one of two teams just six strokes back in seventh place. The Tigers are just 10 strokes ahead of 15th-place Christopher Newport, illustrating how tight the rest of the field remains.
No player in the entire field has shown the kind of fortitude that junior Craig Osterbrock (Wilmington, Ohio/Wilmington) has displayed. After a disastrous 87 on the opening at El Campeon, the two-time All-American has been nearly flawless in the two rounds since, following his second-round 73 with a one-under-par 71 on the same course where he had so much trouble just two days earlier.
"The big difference between today and Tuesday was that I kept the ball in play off the tee," Osterbrock said. "I was really disappointed after the first day but have been determined since then to contribute to the team. It feels great...to get back at that course a little bit today."
Osterbrock has made a big move up the individual leaderboard, into a tie for 57th place. But his play has meant far more to the Tigers as a team, leading a charge from 20th at the end of Day 1 to seventh on Day 3.
Osterbrock isn't the only Tiger player overcoming adversity, however. Freshman Alex Andrews (Kirtland, Ohio/Gilmour Academy) started his day poorly to stand four-over-par through the first four holes, but he played the rest of the course three-under-par to post a 73. And sophomore Jack Uecker (Akron, Ohio/St. Vincent-St. Mary) rallied from a seven-over-par opening nine on Thursday to play the final nine holes two-under-par.
"I am really proud of how resilient the guys have proven to be," said Head Coach Jeff Roope. "Alex was +4 after four holes, Jack turned at +7 and Craig's played the last two rounds at even par after a below-average opening round. Our success is a total team effort, made up of 11 guys."
Sophomore David Wetterich (Cincinnati, Ohio/LaSalle) continues to pace the Tigers overall, checking with a three-day total of 223 to stand 23rd in the individual standings. Andrews is next at 226, good for 38th, and Uecker stands at 230, which puts him 52nd.
After having early tee times the last two days and watching many of the top teams struggle down the stretch, the roles will be reversed in the final round as Wittenberg has drawn the final set of tee times on the Las Colinas Course. Follow all the action live online via the NCAA website.