Rhea, a junior, torched his home course with a 9-under-par 63 to lead ETSU to a 19-under 269 and a two-day total of 550. The Bucs jumped from sixth after Friday’s opening round into first place.
The Bucs’ Archie Davies shot a second-round 65 and was tied for fourth overall at 137. Teammate Shiso Go had a 68 for a 138 total to sit tied for eighth.
ETSU moved in front of first-round leader Tennessee by two shots and Louisville by four in the team competition.
The Bucs’ round was made that much more remarkable because they had to play with just four players. Sam Espinosa had to withdraw prior to Saturday’s round with a back injury, leaving ETSU with no margin of error.
“What the guys did today was awesome,” said ETSU coach Jake Amos. “You never really know what will happen with only four guys out there but today they had a really good attitude and embraced the situation.
“I just wanted them to play aggressively,” Amos added. “Once they got it rolling, they just kept their foot down. They had faith and trust in each other. I think they see the opportunity that’s in front of them.”
Rhea, whose previous personal best on the Blackthorn layout was a 65, started his day with what he considered a pedestrian front nine. After making the turn 1 under, Rhea birded the par-5 10th and par-4 11th holes.
After a par on the 12th, Rhea went birdie, eagle, birdie, birdie over his next four holes and finished in style by birdieing No. 18. That capped a sizzling 8-under 28 on the back nine.
“I just couldn’t get anything going on the front nine,” Rhea noted. “But on the back side, the putts started dropping. Once I got a couple to go in, the hole began to look like a bucket.”
Obviously, the Science Hill alum was right at home at Blackthorn.
“My mindset has been better about playing here this season,” said Rhea, whose two-day 130 total left him with a six-shot advantage over Mississippi’s Jackson Suber and North Carolina State’s Benjamin Shipp. “And I was just feeding off my family and friends screaming for me to make birdies.”
Sunday’s final round begins at 8:30 a.m. The leaders are to tee off at 10:36 a.m. on the first hole.
Bank of Tennessee Intercollegiate
At Blackthorn Club at the Ridges
Par 72, 7147 yards
Saturday’s Second Round
Ole Miss 285-273—558
Virginia Tech 288-275—563
NC State 480-284—564
Coastal Carolina 282-282—564
East Carolina 285-286—571
Penn State 287-290—577
Jack Rhea, ETSU 67-63—130
Jackson Suber, Ole Miss 71-65—136
Benjamin Shipp, NC State 65-71—136
Archie Davies, ETSU 72-65—137
Spencer Cross, UT 68-69—137
Hunter Wolcott, UT 67-70—137
John Murphy, Louisville 66-71—137
Ian Peng, VCU 71-67—138
Shiso Go, ETSU 70-68—138
Zack Taylor, CC 69-69—138
Mark Lawrence, VT 69-69—138
Keegan DeLange, Louisville 69-69—138
Keller Harper, Furman 67-71—138
A Segundo Oliva Pinto, UNCW 66-72—138
Other ETSU Scores
x-playing as an individual
Trevor Hulbert 72-73—75
x-Austin Carter 72-78—150
Sam Espinosa 76-WD