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Flames Returns to Rio Pinar Invitational
No. 33 Liberty will return to the "Sunshine State" next week for the Rio Pinar Invitational, a UCF-hosted event at the par-72, 7,001-yard Rio Pinar Country Club in Orlando, Fla. Liberty enters the event with its highest team ranking in program history.
The tournament will once again be contested at the Rio Pinar Country Club, the home course for both the UCF men's and women's golf programs.
The golf links, which is located just outside the downtown Orlando area, first opened in 1957 and has hosted numerous PGA, LPGA and FSGA events through the years.
Some of golf's greatest have celebrated tournament victories at the Rio Pinar, including "The Merry Mex" Lee Trevino (six-time major winner) and "The King" Arnold Palmer (seven-time major winner).
This marks the second year in a row the Flames will participate in the invitational. Last year, Liberty finished the two-day, 54-hole event in seventh place after firing a 24-over par 888 (295-299-294).
Liberty was paced by Max McKay, as the Florida native posted a one-under par 215 (72-71-72), giving him his first collegiate finish in red figures. The eventual Big South Freshman of the Year finished the event tied for sixth place.
This year's field will once again feature 18 teams, including three Top 50 programs and two teams currently ranked between No. 51-100.
No. 21 N.C. State will be the highest-ranked program in the field. This will be the second team event of the spring season for the Wolfpack, following an eighth-place finish at the Puerto Rico Classic, Feb. 19-22, where 11 of the 14 teams were Top 50 programs.
Tournament host UCF will be looking to defend its title at this year's Rio Pinar Invitational. The Knights used a familiarity of their home course to blister the 18-team field, firing a 14-under par 850 (279-290-281) and finishing 19 strokes ahead of second-place Charlotte (five-over par 869).
Liberty's Robert Karlsson will be the top ranked golfer in the field, as the junior comes into the event ranked No. 28 in the latest Golfstat individual rankings.
Karlsson is coming off a ninth-place finish earlier this week at the Cleveland Golf Palmetto Intercollegiate. The 18-team field included 10 Top 100 programs and six ranked inside the Top 50. Karlsson closed with a one-under par 69 to fire a three-over par 213 (73-71-69), marking his fifth career sub-par round in nine career rounds at the USC Aiken-hosted event.
Karlsson will be looking for a much better showing at this year's Rio Pinar Invitational, as the Swedish-born golfer finished last year's event in a tied for 50th place. His 11-over par 227 (75-75-77) was his third-highest 54-hole total of the 2009-10 season.
Also placing for the Flames at last year's event was Preston Dembowiak, who finished tied for 38th place with a nine-over par 225 (74-76-75). This past week, the senior cracked the latest Golfstat individual national rankings for the first time in his career, as his best season of golf at Liberty (73.6 stroke average) has him ranked No. 178 coming into the weekend.
This year's field includes a potential of 15 nationally ranked golfers. Liberty is one of three programs with two or more nationally ranked golfers on the roster in the latest Golfstat listing, joining Florida Golf Coast (2), N.C. State (3) and UCF (4).
A shotgun start on Monday will kick off 36 holes of action at the Rio Pinar Invitational at 8 a.m., while the 18 holes of competition will be played on Tuesday starting at 8:45 a.m.
Rio Pinar Invitational
(Golfstat Team Rankings)
Akron (No. 106)
Ball State (No. 65)
Campbell (No. 87)
Florida Atlantic (No. 178)
Florida Gulf Coast (No ranking)
George Mason (No. 209)
Houston Baptist (No ranking)
Liberty (No. 33)
Marquette (No. 164)
Miami (Ohio) (No. 100)
N.C. State (No. 21)
Northern Illinois (No. 144)
Rhode Island (No. 214)
Seton Hall (No. 194)
Toledo (No. 150)
UCF (No. 31)
Wichita State (No. 137)
Winthrop (No. 202)
Potential Top 250 Individually Ranked Golfers in the Field
(Golfstat Individual Rankings)
No. 28 – Robert Karlsson (Liberty)
No. 31 – Eric Steger (Ball State)
No. 54 – Albin Choi (N.C. State)
No. 70 – Mithcell Sutton (N.C. State)
No. 100 – Connor Arendell (UCF)
No. 118 – Brandon Detweiler (N.C. State)
No. 149 – Vaita Guillaume (Campbell)
No. 151 – Nathan Sutherland (Miami/Ohio)
No. 153 – Daniel Mazziotta (Florida Golf Coast)
No. 178 – Preston Dembowiak (Liberty)
No. 206 – Chad Day (N.C. State)
No. 220 – Brandon Pena (Florida Golf Coast)
No. 229 – Greg Eason (UCF)
No. 243 – Nuno Henriques (UCF)
No. 249 – Brad Schneider (UCF)
Rio Pinar Country Club (Orlando, Fla.)
Par 72, 7,001 yards