Liberty's men's golf team, fresh off their third-straight NCAA Regional appearance, will open its 2013-14 season tomorrow at the Northern Intercollegiate.
The three-day, 54-hole event, hosted by Northern Illinois, will be contested at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill., a site the Flames hope to potentially revisit in May.
Rich Harvest Farms will be one of six golf courses in the country that will host the 2014 NCAA Men's Golf Regionals, May 16-18. The top five teams at each regional site will advance to the 2014 NCAA Men's Golf National Championship, which will be played at the Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan., May 27 – June 1.
Liberty made its third-consecutive trip to the NCAA Regional last May, when the Flames earned an at-large selection to the NCAA Fayetteville Regional, played at The Blessings Golf Course in Fayetteville, Ark.
Ten of the 15 teams in the field at the 2014 Northern Intercollegiate finished the year ranked as Top 75 programs in the country. Included in the group of ten teams were the Flames, who finished the 2013-14 campaign ranked No. 44 by Golfstat and No. 38 by Golfweek.
Four teams in this year's field finished last year ranked higher than Liberty (Golfstat/Golfweek rankings): Houston (No. 25/26), UCF (NO. 26/39), St. Mary's (No. 33/30) and North Texas (No. 43/35).
Three teams in this year's Northern Intercollegiate advanced to the 2013 NCAA Men's Golf National Championship (Ball State, St. Mary's and UCF), while eight others were NCAA Regional participants (Houston, Indiana, Kentucky, Liberty, North Texas, San Diego, UT-Arlington and Virginia).
Flames head coach Jeff Thomas returns four of the five golfers who guided the Flames to last year's NCAA Regional showing, but only three of those golfers will be at his disposal for the team's season-opening event.
Mathieu Fenasse, last year's Big South Men's Golf Championship individual medalist, will not make the trip with the Flames to Illinois this weekend. The junior, who is a native of Luis, France, is currently overseas competing in the Omega European Masters at the Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Course in Crans Montana, Switzerland.
Fenasse finished the 2012-13 season ranked second on Liberty's roster with a 73.97 stroke average, aided by four Top 10 finishes.
Leading the way for the Flames at this weekend's Northern Intercollegiate will be returning two-time all-conference golfer Chase Marinell. The senior led the Flames last year with a 72.74 stroke average and finished Top 10 in six out of 12 events. He earned PING All-Region honors and finished the year individual ranked No. 80 in the country by GolfStat.
Liberty will also take NCAA Regional participants Niklas Lindstrom and Ian McConnell with them to circle the Rich Harvest course. Lindstrom ranked third on the team with 74.63 stroke average, while McConnell was fifth on Liberty's roster with a 74.77 stroke average.
Rounding out Thomas' roster this weekend will be sophomores Michael Hocker and Harrison Winger, while redshirt senior Jacob Mast will compete as an individual.
Tournament host Northern Illinois will provide live stats via GolfStat for each day of the three-day event at the par-72, 7,263-yard course. Each day's action is slated to begin at 8 a.m.
2013 Northern Intercollegiate Field (Final 2012 Golfstat/Golfweek Team Rankings) Ball State (No. 64/61) Houston (No. 25/26) Indiana (No. 75/62) Kentucky (No. 54/56) Liberty (No. 44/38) Louisville (No. 87/80) Miami (Ohio) (No. 175/177) North Texas (No. 43/35) Northern Illinois (No. 218/214) Ohio State (No. 86/83) San Diego (No. 76/71) St. Mary's (No. 33/30) UCF (No. 26/39) UT-Arlington (No. 92/94) Virginia (No. 62/65)
Course Information: Rich Harvest Farms (Sugar Grove, Ill.) Par 72, 7,236 yards
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