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Flames in Second Place at Northern Intercollegiate
The Liberty Flames jumped out to a strong start and held the lead for most of the day at the Northern Intercollegiate before a late surge pushed day one leader Houston to the top of the leaderboard.
Houston, who finished last year ranked No. 25 by Golfstat and No. 26 by Golfweek, currently leads the 15-team field following a nine-under par 279 on the par-72, 7,236-yard Rich Harvest Farms course.
Liberty, who ranked No. 44/38 in the final 2012-13 rankings (Golfstat/Golfweek), fired a seven-under par 281 to open its season on a course that will host one of the six NCAA Men's Golf Regionals in May.
Liberty's 281 finished as one of the Top 20 team rounds in golf program history (tied for 18th-best single round team score). Liberty has also carded a 281 on three other occasions, with the most recent coming during the closing round of 2010 Big South Men's Golf Championship.
Only one other team in the 15-team field was able to finish in red figures, as Kentucky (last year ranked No. 54/56) stands in third place after a two-under par 286.
Rounding out the top five teams in the field following first round action is Virginia, who is in fourth place after a one-over par 289, and UCF, who is in fifth place following a two-over par 290.
Houston's Blair Hamilton and Kentucky's David Snyder currently lead the 88-man field after opening their collegiate seasons with a five-under par 67.
UCF's Ricardo Gouveia, Kentucky's Stephen Poweres and Houston's Roman Robledo share third place after a four-under par 68.
Liberty's Ian McConnell stands in sixth place after firing a three-under par 69, marking the first of four starting golfers for the Flames to finish in red figures.
McConnell opened with a bogey on the par-4, No. 10 hole, his first of the day, but closed with four birdies and 13 pars to post his seventh career sub-par 70 round of golf. The senior's birdies came in pairs as he birdied holes No. 15 and 16 and No. 3 and 4.
Niklas Lindstrom followed one stroke behind, posting his 28th career round at par or better with a two-under par 70. After birdieing No. 2, his 11th hole of the day, Lindstrom carded his first over-par score with a bogey at the par-4, No. 4 hole. He rebounded with his third birdie of the day on the par-5, No. 7 hole to close out his two-under par round.
Three Liberty golfers are among the eight players who currently share 11th place following a one-under par 71.
Marinell, a PING All-Region honoree in 2013, hovered around the one-under mark most of the day and was able to stay at that score thanks to a closing birdie on the par-4, No. 9 hole.
Winger made the turn at even par and offset two back nine bogeys with three birdies to card his second-lowest career round for the Flames.
Mast opened with a birdie on his first hole at No. 1 and followed with back-to-back bogeys. He made the turn at one-under par before posting two backside bogeys and birdies to close out his lowest career round for the Flames.
Rounding out Liberty's starting five was Michael Hocker, who helped the Flames grab the early lead as he was five-under par through 11 holes. But the sophomore closed with a pair of bogeys and two double bogeys to slip back to a one-over par 73, which shares 23rd place overall.
The Flames will head off the No. 1 tee starting at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday along with golfers from third-place Kentucky and current leader Houston as they compete in the middle round of the three-day, 54-hole event hosted by Northern Illinois.