Freshman gives Cowboys edge

When Morgan Hoffmann left Southern Highlands Golf Club on Friday after shooting par, the Oklahoma State freshman felt comfortable with the course. He thought he would play better in Saturday’s second round of the Southern Highlands Collegiate Championship.

Did he ever.

Hoffmann set a course record with a 10-under-par 62 and catapulted himself and his team to the top of the leaderboard. The Cowboys are at 15-under 561, 12 shots ahead of second-place UNLV and 15 in front of third-place Arizona going into today’s final round of the 15-team event.

“On Friday, I played well. The putts just didn’t fall,” said Hoffmann, who leads Cameron Tringale of Georgia Tech by three shots in the individual standings. “But I knew I could manage on the course.”

Despite having to deal with fast, hard greens and blowing winds, Hoffmann was 7 under on the front nine, including an eagle at the par-4, 365-yard No. 5, where he drove his tee shot within 10 feet of the cup and made the putt.

“When I made eagle, that really got me going,” Hoffmann said. “I knew I had a chance to have a big round.”

When Hoffmann made the turn and realized what he had accomplished, he had to compose himself for a moment.

“I thought about it, and I told myself, ‘Look, just keep playing the way you’re playing. Don’t do anything different,’ ” he said. “It was the only time I really thought about it.”

He carded birdies at Nos. 11, 13 and 16. He saved par with an 11-foot putt at No. 18 to set the Southern Highlands record previously held by Kenny Ebalo, set in July 2007.

Oklahoma State made up 18 strokes from Friday, when the Cowboys were plus-3. If the Cowboys can play anywhere close today to the way they did Saturday, they’ll take home the title for the fourth time and first since 2003.

But UNLV coach Dwaine Knight said he thinks his team still has a shot to retain its title.

“We’ve come back from further before,” said Knight, whose team will play in the final group in today’s round at 9:30 a.m. “But we’re not playing as consistent as we need to be. We just have to go out and shoot a good round.”

The best UNLV score came from sophomore Jeremiah Wooding, who wasn’t playing in the team competition. He had seven birdies and three bogeys en route to finishing at 4-under 68. He is sixth among individuals at 141.

“I still feel like a Rebel even though I’m not competing with the team,” Wooding said. “But in reality, golf is an individual sport. You still want to take care of your business.”

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@ or 702-387-2913.

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