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Texas, Okla. St. Vie for Golf Title

June 2, 2000

OPELIKA, Ala. (AP) _ David Gossett was about 12 years old when he first saw Charles Howell play golf at a tournament in Alabama.

``Charles had been a little prodigy,″ Gossett, now a Texas sophomore, recalled Thursday.

The two faced off in the same state on a much bigger stage today. Gossett and Oklahoma State’s Howell entered the third day of the 72-hole NCAA Championships at Grand National Golf Club in a tie for first place at 11 under.

Their teams also are neck-and-neck at the halfway point, Oklahoma State surging to a one-stroke lead with a 12-under team performance Thursday at Grand National Golf Club.

Howell shot a 6-under-par 66 on Thursday to catch Gossett, who followed an NCAA record-tying 63 with a 70. East Tennessee State’s Chris Wisler shot 68 and is 9 under.

Howell, the Big 12 player of the year, had plenty of help. Senior Landry Mahan shot a 68 and is at 6 under. Freshman J.C. DeLeon lopped four shots off his first-round 74 as Oklahoma State completed two rounds at 19 under.

``Landry’s playing great. That’s the best he’s played all year,″ Howell said. ``For a freshman to calm down and shoot 70, that was huge too.″

Gossett, who started on the 10th hole, began the day with a double-bogey and bogey and was 2 over after nine holes. The reigning U.S. Amateur champion recovered with an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole, followed by consecutive birdies.

``I was a little sloppy starting off,″ said Gossett, who had a 32 on the last nine holes. ``But I’m proud of myself, the way I hung in there.″

Seven players are within five strokes of the lead. Texas freshman J.J. Wall had a 71 and is three shots back. UNLV’s Jeremy Anderson and Georgia Tech’s Matt Kuchar are at 7 under, one ahead of Arizona’s Ricky Barnes.

The team competition is turning into a three-way scramble. Georgia Tech was four shots behind Texas and eight shots up on fourth-place North Carolina. Kent is fourth, another stroke back, and Houston and UNLV are two more strokes behind.

Texas opened the tournament with a 16-under round and 8-stroke lead over Georgia Tech. Oklahoma State answered with the big second round, while Georgia Tech has rounds of 8 under and 6 under.

″(The Cowboys) played a real low round,″ Tech coach Bruce Heppler said. ``Texas had one yesterday. Maybe we’ve got one left.″

The field was to be cut to 15 teams and the top nine individuals after Wake Forest ousted defending champion Georgia in a playoff this morning. California, at 7-over, missed the cut because of a two-stroke penalty against James Hahn for showing up late to the first tee.

Last year’s individual winner, Northwestern’s Luke Donald, is nine strokes behind Howell and Gossett.

There were 15 players below par on the 7,003-yard, par-72 course. By comparison, only three players were under par at the 36-hole mark last year at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn.

The favorable conditions left the trailing teams and players with hopes for a quick resurgence.

``At this golf course anyone can make a big score and catch a 20-under team,″ said Jason Dufner of nearby Auburn, which made the cut at 2 over. ``It will be tough to do in two rounds, though.″

Gossett started out playing baseball, making it to the Little League World Series when he was 10. Howell was already a rising star at the Future Masters in Dothan by the time they met.

``I was extremely impressed,″ Gossett said. ``He was so good.″

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