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Bulls start out hot, finish sixth in tournament

Carlos Correa (above) got within one shot of the lead in the final round, but finished four strokes below individual champion Harry Ellis of Florida State. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/GOUSFBULLS

After winning the Jim Rivers Intercollegiate in their first tournament of the 2017-18 season, the Bulls continued their hot streak into the first round of the Marquette Intercollegiate, with the Bulls sitting atop the standings after Day 1 with a score of even par.

As the tournament progressed, however, the Bulls faltered and finished the tournament in sixth. On Day 2 of the three-day tournament, USF as a team shot plus-18. On Day 3, they shot plus-14.

“Claudio and Cristian did their job this week,” coach Steve Bradley said after the tournament. “The other guys need to step up. It was a disappointing end to the round.”

Senior standout Cristian DiMarco, who was named American Men’s Golf player of the month after his first individual collegiate win in the Jim Rivers Intercollegiate, opened the tournament shooting 4-under-par in the first round.  

As a team, the Bulls were two strokes atop the standing.

“Every guy in there, after the first round, was thinking we had a chance to win,” DiMarco said. “It was hard. The course was demanding and it was a tough field. When you face adversity, you get a lot of experience.”

DiMarco was poised for a run at the individual following his early lead, but he stumbled in his second and third rounds and placed 10th overall in the tournament.

Playing through an illness, Claudio Correa stepped up for USF and tied for sixth place individually with a cumulative score of plus-1. 

“He’s been feeling pretty poorly and it was kind of a game time decision whether he was going to play,” Bradley said of Correa. “For him to come in and do what he did, he’s a tough kid and showed me a lot about who he is.”

The outing marked the first time Correa has finished in the top-10 in his college career and was the closest he’s ever been to winning. He finished four strokes below first place winner Harry Ellis of Florida State.

“It’s been a long time coming,” DiMarco said about Correa. “He’s been working really hard. The guy was all-conference his freshman so the talent is there, he just lost his way and hopefully he’s getting it back.”

Possibly part of the reason for Correa’s success at Erin Hills was his experience in caddying at the course last summer.

As the Erin Hills played host to the U.S. Open, Correa was Chilean professional, Joaquin Niemann’s, caddy for the tournament. Niemann didn’t make the cut to advance past the second round, but posted a plus-5 score in the two rounds he played. 

Correa, meanwhile, scored plus-1 through three rounds at the course this week.

“Claudio is playing pretty solid and I’m very happy for him,” Bradley said about Correa. “I always knew he was a tough kid and he’s battling some sickness this week on this golf course.”

While Correa and DiMarco battled atop the leaderboard, the rest of the Bulls found themselves in the middle of the pack. Kyle Flexsenhar, who was the closest to the top-10-tandem of Correa and DiMarco, finished tied for 58th place. Jimmy Jones, another senior, placed 64th and Andre Leveque finished tied for 67th in the tournament.

“For Kyle and Andre, it showed them that they’re developing mentally,” Coach Bradley said. “They still have a long way to go…You play at a course like that under the conditions they played, that’s only going to help them in the college season.”

The Bulls are coming off of their third consecutive AAC championship last season. Correa and DiMarco have both proven themselves this season, but the rest of the team will have to step up in order to replicate the team’s success.  

“We’re a work in progress,” Bradley said. “I think our best golf is still in front of us. In a way, we have a little bit of a chip on our shoulder and that we have something to prove. I like that attitude.”