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Flames Set for Play at NCAA Greensboro Regional
Following a practice round tomorrow, No. 6 seed Liberty will tee it up at the Grandover Resort on Thursday morning alongside 13 other programs for the first round of the 2012 NCAA Division I Men's Golf Regional.
Liberty, winner of back-to-back Big South Conference titles, is currently ranked No. 31 in the latest Golfweek rankings and No. 32 by Golfstat. This year's Greensboro Regional field features 12 out of 14 teams currently ranked No. 75 or higher, including four Top 20 programs.
All 14 teams will be chasing the same goal of finishing among the top five programs following 54 holes of action on the par-72, 7,300-yard trek just off the I-85 highway outside of Greensboro.
Those five teams will earn the right to challenge the top five programs from each of the remaining five NCAA Regional sites around the country at the NCAA Men's Golf National Championship at The Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif., May 29 – June 3.
This week's trip for Liberty, less than two hours south of its campus, marks the program's fourth NCAA Regional showing. The men's golf team became Liberty's first Division I athletics program to earn an at-large bid to an NCAA Championship event, doing so in 2003 and 2006.
The Flames have dominated the Big South Championship the last two years to capture the league's automatic bid the NCAA Regionals.
In 2011, Liberty won the Big South title by 31 strokes, while this year the Flames blitzed The Patriot Club Golf Club in Ninety Six, S.C., and carded a Big South Championship record 20-under par 844 to win by 10 strokes over Coastal Carolina.
The Flames are one of four automatic qualifiers at this year's NCAA Greensboro Regional. Liberty is joined by No. 10 seed Lamar (Southland), No. 13 seed George Washington (Atlantic 10) and No. 14 seed Mount St. Mary's (Northeast) as the programs that won their postseason ticket at their respective conference championships.
Liberty will be looking to continue its trend of improvement at NCAA Regional events. After posting a tie for 24th place in 2003 (312?307?311?930/66?over par) and a 22nd place finish in 2006 (310?303?304?917/53?over par), the Flames finished 10th at last year's NCAA Arizona Regional.
The Flames got off to a solid start on day one in 2011, carding a four-under par 280 on the par-71 Omni Tucson National Golf Resort, which had Liberty in fifth place following 18 holes of action. However, Liberty carded higher scores on its closing 36 holes to finish the event in 10th place with an eight-over par 860 (280-292-288).
One of Liberty's top finishers at last year's NCAA Regional will be making his second postseason start. Chase Marinell was one of two Flames to share 25th place with a one-over par 214 (72-71-71), a score that tied for the third lowest 54-hole NCAA Regional total in program history.
The second lowest mark in program history is held by Robert Karlsson, who is making his fourth career NCAA Regional appearance. The senior carded that score, a one-over par 211 (66-74-71-211), to post a share of 24th place at the NCAA New Haven Regional in 2010.
Karlsson, a two-time Big South Golfer of the Year who is ranked No. 29 by Golfweek, has posted a career 73.67 stroke average at NCAA Regional events (663 strokes over nine rounds).
Karlsson is coming off his second Big South Men's Golf Championship medalist honor, after the senior carded three sub-70 rounds to win the title by two strokes with a 10-under par 206 (69-68-69).
Karlsson comes into his potential final collegiate event with a 72.0 career stroke average, having finished in the top five in 26 of 44 career events, including five individual victories.
Seventh year head coach Jeff Thomas will send three NCAA Regional newcomers to the No. 1 tee box on Thursday, with four of his five starters being of sophomore or freshman status.
The three postseason rookies currently rank No. 2, 3 and 4 on Liberty's roster in terms of season stroke average.
Lindstrom had a strong spring for the Flames, finishing Top 20 in four of his last five events, to rank second on the team with a 73.1 season stroke average. Karlsson's fellow Swedish countryman, Lindstrom finished in red figures his last two tournaments, including a second-place finished at the River Landing Intercollegiate with a seven-under par 209.
McConnell consistently improved throughout the spring and bookended a pair of top finishes to post a 73.8 season stroke average.
At the SeaBest Seaford Invitational, a field that included North Florida and Florida and was played at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course, McConnell helped Liberty to a second-place finish by individually finishing in ninth place with a six-over par 222. At last month's Big South Championship event, McConnell wrapped up Liberty's team victory by finishing 12th with a one-over par 217.
Fenasse has a pair of Top 20 finishes to his first year resume at Liberty, spotlighted by a share of 19th place with a season-best even par 216 at the River Landing Intercollegiate. The French golfer was Liberty's "Mr. Consistency" during the first two rounds of the Big South Men's Golf Championship, posting pars on 33 out of 36 holes to help the Flames secure better team scores during the opening two rounds.
Liberty's final underclassman is Marinell, last year's Big South Freshman of the Year. The sophomore is coming off back-to-back below-par finishes, carding a three-under par 213 for a share of eighth place at the River Landing Intercollegiate and a four-under par 212 for fifth place at the Big South Men's Golf Championship.
Official tee times for Thursday's opening rounds will be released on Wednesday afternoon, which will have Liberty paired up with golfers from No. 4 seed Duke and No. 5 seed Indiana.
The Flames have previous season experience against the Blue Devils. Liberty bested Duke at the RiverLanding Intercollegiate for its first of two straight team titles, when Liberty carded an 18-under par 846 to Duke's nine-under par 855 on April 6-7 at the River Landing Golf Course in Wallace, N.C.
Live scoring every three holes throughout the NCAA Greensboro Regional will once again be provided by Golfstat.com, while Liberty will continue its social media coverage of the golf team through its Twitter feed.
@LibertyFlames will be providing detailed hole-by-hole coverage for one of Liberty's golfers each day throughout the NCAA Greensboro Regional.
NCAA Greensboro Regional Field
1. Auburn (No. 3/No. 5)
2. UNLV (No. 15/No. 9)
3. Florida (No. 18/No. 17)
4. Duke (No. 19/No. 20)
5. Indiana (No. 33/No. 28)
6. Liberty (No. 31/No. 32) [Big South Conference]
7. SMU (No. 42/No. 41)
8. Texas Tech (No. 46/No. 44)
9. Tulsa (No. 58/No. 53)
10. Lamar (No. 52/No. 56) [Southland Conference]
11. Louisiana-Lafayette (No. 64/No. 62)
12. Charlotte (No. 74/No. 71)
13. George Washington (No. 206/No. 169) [Atlantic 10 Conference]
14. Mount St. Mary's (No. 241/No. 241) [Northeast Conference]
1. Vaita Guillaume, Campbell
2. Sam Ryder, Stetson
3. Rhys Enoch, East Tennessee State
4. Casey O'Toole, Samford
5. Leo Garcia, Sacred Heart