Clark sixth at nationals; Bennett in 21st

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 6, 2002

CHAUTAUQUA, N.Y. &045; Riverland Community College has had a string of entrants in the National Junior College Athletic Association National Golf Championships, but the Blue Devils have never had an All-American golfer.

That could change soon.

Jeff Clark, a freshman from Austin, fired a 75 Wednesday to put him four strokes off the lead at the midway point of the national tournament at Chautauqua, N.Y. He had a 77 Tuesday.

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&uot;He played very well,&uot; said RCC coach David Lillemon. &uot;He said he putted real well. He was one over on the front, one under on the back.&uot;

Justin Bennett of Albert Lea, RCC’s other entrant, shot a 78 Wednesday to put him at 157 after 36 holes, tied with four others for 21st place.

Lillemon said winning the title is an extremely long shot for Bennett at this point, but the coach feels he can move up considerably in the final two days of the tournament.

&uot;He can certainly make up four or five strokes, and there are 14 golfers between 157 and 154,&uot; said Lillemon. &uot;He can leap frog a lot of people. I know he’s capable of playing a lot better.&uot;

Mike Elseth of Rochester Community and Technical College, also an Albert Lea High School graduate, fell from an eighth-place tie on the first day to a tie for 32nd after carding an 83 Wednesday. He shot 76 Tuesday.

The first-round leader, Matt Mooney of Lincoln CC, had a 79 Wednesday to fall out of first. Joe Kunze of Monroe CC topped the field at 148 after 36 holes.

The top 18 finishers earn All-American honors. The best finish for a Riverland golfer is 22nd, by Bennett last year and three years ago by Josh Usgaard of Austin. This is the first time the Blue Devils have had two participants in the national tournament.