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Tough Field Awaits Flames at SunTrust Gator Invitational
The Flames will be playing against one of the strongest collegiate golf fields this spring when No. 30/35 Liberty tees it up this weekend at the SunTrust Gator Invitational in Gainesville, Fla.
The 14-team field features five Top 25 programs, including No. 2/2 Auburn and No. 9/8 Arkansas (Golfweek/Golfstat rankings). Five other programs currently rank from No. 26-50, giving the two-day, 54-hole event 10 total Top 50 programs.
During the opening round on Saturday morning, the Flames will be paired with Auburn and No. 12/12 North Florida, a team Liberty recently defeated at the SeaBest Seafood Invitational.
The event will be contested at No. 33/33 Florida's home course, the par-70, 6,704-yard Mark Bostic Golf Course.
The star-studded field will including three Top 10 individually ranked golfers (No. 5 – Brooks Koepka/Florida State, No. 6 – Sean Dale/North Florida and No. 7 – T.J. Vogel/Florida) and seven additional golfers ranked inside the Top 50.
Included among the 10 Top-50 golfers is Liberty's Robert Karlsson, who is ranked No. 23 in the latest Golfweek individual rankings.
The event has a rich history and has brought some of the top collegiate golfers to Gainesville since it inaugural tournament in 1978. The event's previous individual medalist honors have been won by PGA Tour pros Chris Couch (1994, 1995), Chris DiMarco (1990), Brad Faxon (1983) and Oliver Wilson (2003) and major champions Paul Azinger (1981), David Toms (1989) and Graeme McDowell (2002).
The Gators have used the familiarity of the Mark Bostic Golf Course to their favor, having won the event 24 times in the event's 31-year history, including 11 medalist honors.
The Flames are very familiar with several teams in the 14-team field, having faced three in Liberty's spring-opening event on Jan. 30-31 at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
The only team to best the Flames in the 54-hole event was Florida, with the Gators posting a 20-over par 884 (303-284-297) to take home the team title.
Liberty finished second with a 35-over par 899 (301-297-301), three strokes ahead of North Florida's 38-over par 902 (301-304-297). This was the Flames' best showing at the Jacksonville-hosted event in the three years Liberty has kick started its spring schedule at the event.
Florida's T.J. Vogel, ranked No. 7 in the latest Golfweek individual rankings, took home medalist honors, carding an even par 216 (73-69-74).
Karlsson paced the way for the Flames, finishing in a three-way tie for fourth place with a three-over par 219 (75-70-74).
Helping the Flames secure the second place finish was Ian McConnell. The sophomore posted his second Top 10 finish of the season and the third of his career, sharing ninth place after carding a six-over par 222 (71-75-76).
Stroke play will begin at 8 a.m. on Saturday, opening 36 holes of competition, while the final 18 holes of the tournament will be contested on Sunday. Golfstat.com will be providing live hole-by-hole coverage throughout the two-day event.
2012 SunTrust Gator Invitational Field
(Golfweek/Golfstat Team Rankings)
Arkansas (No. 9/8)
Auburn (No. 2/2)
Florida (No. 33/33)
Florida State (No. 20/17)
Georgia Southern (No. 85/88
Jacksonville (No. 172/168)
Kennesaw State (No. 37/39)
Liberty (No. 30/35)
Memphis (No. 41/41)
Mississippi State (No. 57/57)
North Florida (No. 12/12)
South Alabama (No. 96/95)
UAB (No. 29/29)
UCF (No. 19/21)
Top 125 Individual Golfers in the Field
(Golfweek Individual Rankings)
No. 5 – Brooks Koepka (Florida State)
No. 6 – Sean Dale (North Florida)
No. 7 – T.J. Vogel (Florida)
No. 18 – Dominic Bozzelli (Auburn)
No. 23 – Robert Karlsson (Liberty)
No. 24 – Blayne Barber (Auburn)
No. 31 – Kevin Aylwin (North Florida)
No. 40 – Ricardo Gouveia (UCF)
No. 48 – Ethan Tracy (Arkansas)
No. 49 – Kevin Phelan (North Florida)
No. 59 – Brad Schneider (UCF)
No. 64 – Sebastian Cappeien (Arkansas)
No. 76 – Josh Eure (Arkansas)
No. 78 – Jose Joia (UCF)
No. 80 – Will McCurdy (Auburn)
No. 81 – Michael Johnson (Auburn)
No. 83 – Bjorn Hellgren (Florida State)
No. 85 – Matt Nagy (Kennesaw State)
No. 94 – Fletcher Johnson (Mississippi State)
No. 100 – Doug Letson (Florida State)
No. 117 – Jeff Karlsson (Kennesaw State)
No. 122 – Tyler McCumber (Florida)
Mark Bostic Golf Cousre (Gainesville, Fla.)
Par 70, 6,704 yards