The Aggies shot the best round of the day and now sit at 3-under 573 (295-278) for the tournament, in second place and two shots back of the leader in top-seeded UCLA (571, -5). A&M also sits 14 shots up on the cutoff line for one of the coveted five spots for nationals, with the final 18 holes scheduled for Saturday morning.
"What can I say, it was a tremendous day out there today," head coach J.T. Higgins said. "The guys were outstanding in every aspect, top to bottom. Every one of them came ready to play today and I'm just really proud of them for the effort they gave and how hard they played. It wasn't any easier today than it was yesterday-as a matter of fact, it was probably a little bit tougher. I just think the guys are playing their best golf of the year right now, and it was good to see us have a terrific round when we needed one."
A&M's entire roster turned in a better score on Friday than in Thursday's first round, resulting in the third best round in an NCAA Regional in program history. Only the third round of the 2009 West Regional (-15) and the first of the 2010 South Central Regional (-11) were lower.
"We did some great short game work yesterday right after the round and gained a lot of confidence from that," Higgins said. "Once we felt good around the green it took a lot of pressure off our ball-striking. We knew we didn't have to hit great shots because we knew we could get it up and down if we didn't."
Chattanooga (575, -1) is two shots back of the Aggies in third place, with Memphis (+6) and Virginia Tech (+7) holding the final two of the five qualifying spots. Northwestern and Colorado State (+11) are tied for sixth, with Clemson (+14), Iowa State (+17), North Texas (+18), Arkansas (+18), Jacksonville State (+37), Penn (+41) and Alabama State (+65) rounding out the field.
True freshman Ty Dunlap tops A&M's individual list, sitting in fifth place with a 3-under 141 (71-70). The best round of the day went to sophomore Johannes Veerman, whose 68 now has him tied for ninth at 2-under (74-68=142). Seniors Jordan Russell (76-69=145) and Geoff Shaw (74-71=145) are tied for 17th at 1-over, while redshirt freshman Greg Yates shot a 2-over 74 on the day and is tied for 34th at 6-over for the week.
"Jordan, Johannes and Geoff played fantastic, and Ty was as steady as can be," Higgins said. "Everyone contributed. Greg had a 2-over and that wasn't going to hurt us. It was just a great team effort and we look forward to tomorrow. The best way to qualify (for nationals) is to win. We're going to try and get out of here with a win tomorrow and get ready to go to Los Angeles."
Saturday's third and final round gets underway in the morning, and A&M will be in the final groups to hit the course. The Aggies are paired with UCLA and Chattanooga and will begin from Hole No. 1 at 8:40 a.m. (CT). Live scoring will be available on golfstat.com and aggieathletics.com.