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Flames Set for SunTrust Gator Invitational
Fresh off a victory at the Sea Best Invitational, Liberty heads back to the "Sunshine State" looking to keep its spring season going at the SunTrust Gator Invitational this weekend.
Liberty, currently ranked No. 24 by Golfstat and No. 26 by Golfweek, will face one of the toughest fields it will see during the regular season. Of the 14 teams in this year's field, five other programs are currently ranked inside the top 25.
Last week, Liberty claimed its 23rd NCAA Division I team title, finishing tied atop the leaderboard with North Florida at Jacksonville's Sea Best Invitational. The Flames were declared the tournament champion based upon their better final round at the famed TPC – Sawgrass – THE PLAYERS Stadium Course.
Liberty will once again see No. 46/51 North Florida this weekend, along with No. 5/8 UCF, No. 8/9 UAB, No. 20/21 Florida State, No. 21/25 Akkansas and No. 34/38 Mercer.
The 14-team field will battle for the team title at the 2014 SunTrust Gator Invitational on Florida's home course, the Mark Bostick Golf Course, in Gainesville, Fla. (par 70, 6,701 yards).
The Gators, currently ranked No. 73/76, have used the knowledge of their home course to their advantage, winning the tournament 23 in 36 years of competition, including 10 medalist honors.
The event, which started in 1978, has attracted some of the best collegiate golf programs in the country and has seen some of the developing players in the game claim individual victory.
Among the list of medalist honors, include PGA Tour professionals Jonas Blixt (2005), Chris Couch (1994 & 1995), Chris DiMarco (1990), Billy Horschel (2009), Jeff Klauk (1998), Graeme McDowell (2002), Alex Rocha (2000) and David Toms (1989).
This marks the third straight year the Flames have participated in the SunTrust Gator Invitational. Following a sixth place finish in 2012 (290-288-300-878), Liberty looked like it might finish top five in the event in 2013 when the team was in fourth place after the second round.
However, the Flames could not keep up with the pace of the leaders during the closing round, falling to a share of seventh place with a 21-over par 861 (288-284-289).
Liberty's leader at last year's SunTrust Gator Invitational also led the Flames to victory at last week's Sea Best Invitational.
Senior Niklas Lindstrom finished tied for fifth place at last year's event, posting a one-under par 209 (69-71-69) and was one of eight golfers in the field to finish under par.
Lindstrom is coming off a share of third place at last week's Sea Best Invitational where he posted a two-over par 218 (71-74-73). Last week's Big South Men's Golfer of the Week ranks third on Liberty's roster with a 73.60 stroke average this year, to go along with a pair of top five finishes.
Chase Marinell leads the Flames with a 72.57 stroke average and has three top five finishes in five starts this season. The senior, who is one of three Floridians in Coach Jeff Thomas' lineup this weekend, has played in the last two SunTrust Gator Invitationals.
Ian McConnell, another Florida native for the Flames, has been Liberty's most consistent golfer at this event. The senior has posted a pair of top 30 finishes, spotlighted by last year's tie for 23rd place with a five-over par 215 (72-72-71).
The two-day, 54-hole event begins with 36 holes of play on Saturday, followed by the concluding 18 holes of competition on Sunday. Golfstat.com will provide live stats for all three rounds of the tournament.
2014 SunTrust Gator Invitational
(Latest Golfstat/Golfweek Team Rankings)
Arkansas (No. 21/25)
Coastal Carolina (No. 83/79)
College of Charleston (No. 121/132)
Florida State (No. 20/21)
Florida (No. 73/76)
Georgia Southern (No. 59/67)
Jacksonville (No. 179/179)
Lamar (No. 100/89)
Liberty (No. 24/26)
Mercer (No. 34/38)
North Florida (No. 46/51)
UAB (No. 8/9)
UCF (No. 5/8)
Vanderbilt (No. 16/16)
Mark Bostick Golf Course (Gainesville, Fla.)
Par 70, 6,701 yards