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Flames Finish NCAA Fayetteville Regional in 11th Place
No. 7 seed Liberty tied its opening round score on Saturday, carding a 15-over par 303 to finish the NCAA Fayetteville Regional in 11th place.
The Blessings Golf Course, a par-72, 7,251-yard, played its hardest of any of the regional's three days, as the individual scoring average was at 77.33. No team managed to break par on Arkansas' home course and only four of the 14 teams in the field posted team scores of less than 10-over par.
Upstart Illinois was able to fend off a late charge by the home team, Arkansas, to claim their second-straight team title. No. 6 seed Illinois, fresh off a Big Ten Championship victory, bested the 14-team field and won with a one-under par 863 (282-292-289).
Hometown favorite and No. 2 seed Arkansas finished in second place, as the Razorbacks finished with a two-over par 866 (290-283-293) on what has been their home course since it opened in 2004.
Defending national champion and No. 1 seed Texas finished a distant third place with a 16-over par 880 (285-298-297).
No. 3 seed Oklahoma State was just behind Texas, finishing in fourth place with an 18-over par 882 (286-304-292).
Claiming the pivotal fifth place was No. 5 seed Kent State, which posted a 28-over par 892 (288-303-301) to round out the five teams that will be heading to the NCAA Men's Golf National Championship in Atlanta, Ga., later this month.
Despite having the overall individual winner, No. 4 seed SMU was left out of the top five finishers, claiming sixth place with a 31-over par 895 (297-298-300).
Liberty, playing in its third-straight NCAA Regional as a team, took 11th place with a 55-over par 919 (303-313-303).
SMU's Mario Clemens carded his highest score of the regional event on Saturday, but was still able to win by one stroke. He finished with a three-under par 213 (70-70-73), thanks to a birdie on the par-5, No. 9, his last hole, that helped him individually qualify for the national championship event.
Illinois had three of the next five golfers on the 75-player leaderboard, including Brian Campbell (77-67-70) and Thomas Detry (68-74-72), who shared second place with Arkansas' Austin Cook (72-68-74). The trio of players finished the 54-hole event with a two-under par 214.
Rounding out the top five individual finishers in the event was Illinois' Charlie Danielson, who led after day one, and finished in fifth place with an even par 216 (65-78-73).
Liberty's top golfer in the field was Chase Marinell, who finished tied for 21st place with an eight-over par 224 (76-72-76).
The junior was level par through five holes, but mixed a birdie with four bogeys over a five-hole stretch to drop to three-over. He got back to one-over par after birdies on No. 3 and No. 5, but a bogey on the par-4, No. 7 and a double-bogey on the par-3, No. 8 forced him to post the same score with which he opened the regional event.
Mathieu Fenasse finished the tournament tied for 32nd place, three shots behind Marinell with an 11-over par 227 (72-77-78).
The sophomore, who closed his last 29 holes at the regional event without a birdie, dropped his first shot of the day at No. 11. He followed with bogeys at No. 14, 15 and 17 to make the turn at four-over par for the day. He posted two additional over-par holes at No. 3 and No. 4, before closing his day with five-straight pars.
Ian McConnell was Liberty's leader during the final round, closing with a two-over par 74 to climb up the leaderboard to 53rd place with an overall 18-over par 234 (77-83-74).
A lost ball off the tee left at No. 12, his third hole of the day, quickly dropped McConnell to two-over par with a double bogey. He followed with another dropped shot at No. 13 after flying the pin by 18 feet and three-putting the green.
He got one of his dropped shots back at the par-5, No. 16 hole, reaching the green area in two after a big sweeping drive on the dogleg right. He flew the green and found some deep rough, but was able to chip out to 10 feet and sink the birdie putt.
McConnell nearly followed with a second-straight birdie at the difficult downhill par-3, No. 17 hole, as his tee shot on the 241-yard hole was above the pin. However, he was unable to get his putt to come down the hill and would eventually make the turn at two-over par.
He dropped consecutive shots on holes No. 2 and 3 to fall back to four-over par on the day. The junior caught a tough break on the lengthy par-5, No. 2 hole (635 yards), as he tried to get around the large tree in the middle of the fairway and lost a ball in the hazard to the left.
His next dropped shot came on the par-4, No. 3 hole where he was unable to get up-and-down for par from the left greenside bunker.
On the uphill, par-5, No. 4 hole, McConnell used the slope on the back of the green to draw his ball within 12 feet where he was able to sink the putt for his second birdie of the day.
McConnell's final under-par score for the round came on the dogleg left, par-4, No. 7 hole, as he stuck a 9-iron to within two feet for a tap-in birdie. He tried to get one last shot back on his final hole, the par-5, No. 9 (535 yards), as he nearly reached the green in two. He chipped up to eight feet, but missed his final birdie try of the day to the right to finish with a 74.
McConnell was very consistent off the tee all day, as he hit 12 of 13 fairways, with his lone missed fairway coming on No. 12 that led to a double bogey. He also finished the day hitting 13 of 18 greens in regulation and with 31 total putts.
Max McKay, the lone senior on Coach Jeff Thomas' regional starting five, saved his best round at this regional event for last and finished the tournament in 57th place with a 21-over par 237 (78-84-75).
The three-time NCAA Regional participant used a birdie at No. 1, his 10th hole of the day, to get back to even par. However, he had bogeys on holes No. 3, 6 and 9 to close out his collegiate career with a three-over par 75.
McKay, a two-time Big South all-conference member and 2010 Big South Freshman of the Year, completed his Liberty collegiate golfing days with a 73.88 career stroke average, 43 rounds at par or better and finished as the team's active leader with 16 career Top 10 finishes.
Liberty's final golfer in the field was Niklas Lindstrom, who finished tied for 66th place with a 29-over par 245 (81-81-83). The junior's final round got off to a tough start after a bogey at the extreme uphill, par-4, No. 11 and a 10 on the par-5, No. 12 hole, setting the tone for a difficult day on the course for Lindstrom.
The event wraps up the Flames' 2012-13 season, a year during which Liberty garnered the program's highest national rankings back in the fall and the program's third-straight and fifth overall NCAA Regional appearance.