GASTONIA, N.C. – Chris Jones carded a 66 in a fine performance Tuesday to pace Gardner-Webb at the 2017 Gary Koch Invitational.
The Runnin' Bulldogs finished 11th in a very competitive 14-team field, firing a 297 as a team on Tuesday to finish at an 888 for the 54-hole tournament.
The Invitational was held at the 7,042-yard Gaston Country Club (Par 72), co-hosted by Auburn and Kentucky. The host Tigers won the tournament by eight strokes over NC State.
Gardner-Webb was led by local standout Aaron Thomas, who cooled off from his sizzling start on Monday with a final round of 77. Thomas (67-70-77-214) finished just two strokes out of the top-5, tied with seven other golfers.
He sank a birdie putt with three holes remaining to move back inside the top-10. It was his 13th birdie of the tournament.
Jones' round of 66 was the second-best on the course Tuesday, trailing only Kentucky's Tyler McDaniel – who shot a 65. Jones (Charlotte, N.C. / Hickory Grove Christian School) moved up 30 spots from Monday to finish in a tie for 29th individually.
With Gardner-Webb starting on the back nine, Jones picked up birdies on the 13th, 17th and 18th holes to make the turn with a solid score of 33. He matched that effort over the final nine holes, holing out an eagle on the Par 5 first hole and sinking birdies on the seventh and ninth to finish the round with momentum. Jones had only one bogey Tuesday.
Vincent Blanchette (71-77-79-227) finished tied for 51st for the Runnin' Bulldogs. Jonathan Henry shot a 75 on Tuesday – his best round of the the tournament – to finish in a tie for 69th (82-76-75-233). Steffen Smith rounded out the team scoring for Gardner-Webb (79-76-80-235), finishing tied for 74th.
Gardner-Webb will now begin preparations for the 2017 Big South Men's Golf Championship, which begins on April 22 in Ninety Six, S.C.