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Flames in 9th Place at NCAA Albuquerque Regional

May 16, 2016  Albuquerque, N.M.  RSS
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Flames in 9th Place at NCAA Albuquerque Regional

No. 11 seed Liberty is in ninth place following the first day's action at the 2016 NCAA Albuquerque Regional on Monday.

The Flames carded a 9-over par 297 on a blustery day at the Championship Course at the University of New Mexico (par 72, 7,562 yards).

With the course playing at an elevation of 5,300 feet above sea level, the 14-team field spent a good portion of the day getting used to distance control and the windy conditions.

No. 2 seed Arizona State made the adjustment the quickest, carding a 2-under par 286 to hold the clubhouse lead heading into tomorrow's second round.

No. 3 seed South Florida is in second place with a 1-over par 289, followed by No. 1 seed and No. 8 seed Texas Tech, who are in third place with a 3-over par 291.

No. 9 seed TCU holds the coveted fifth-place spot following the first round of competition, carding a 4-over par 292. The top five teams at the end of play on Wednesday will advance to the 2016 NCAA Men's Golf Championship in Eugene, Ore. (May 27 – June 1).

The Flames find themselves five shots behind the Horned Frogs with three teams standing between Liberty and TCU (San Diego State +5/293; New Mexico +6/294; Texas A&M +8/296).

Nine players in the 75-man field managed to post first-round scores in red figures, led by Arizona State's Jon Rahm, the No. 3 ranked golfer in the country, and South Florida's Rigel Fernandes. The pair carded a 3-under par 69.

USC's Sean Crocker and TCU's Ryan Books share third place with a 2-under par 70. Five golfers share fifth place with a 1-under par 71, including Liberty's Gabe Lench.

The Big South All-Freshman golfer made the turn at 4-over par, but caught fire on his closing nine holes of play (holes No. 1-9, as Liberty opened play at No. 10).

Lench started his final nine holes of play by reaching the green in two at No. 1 (par 5, 544 yard) and sinking an eagle putt.

The freshman carded back-to-back birdies at No. 3 (par 3, 163 yards) and No. 4 (par 4, 376 yards) to get back to level par for the day. Following four-consecutive pars, Lench closed out his first career Regional round by birdieing the lengthy par, 5 No. 9 hole (606 yards).

Liberty's next best golfer in the standings is sophomore Isaiah Logue, who is tied for 24th place following a 2-over par 74.

The sophomore, who is playing in his second career Regional, was at 1-under par with five holes to play. However, he struggled with the challenging stretch of closing holes to drop three shots.

Liberty's final three golfers in the field (Mickey DeMorat, Payton Taylor and Hutson Chandler) are in a group of 13 players who are tied for 40th place with a 4-over par 76.

DeMorat got back to 2-over par with consecutive birdies on the par-5, No. 18 (544 yards) and No. 1 holes. However, he dropped two shots during his final eight holes of play.

Taylor stopped a run of four bogeys in a row with a birdie at No. 18. He dropped back to 5-over par for the day after a bogey at the uphill par-4, No. 5 (492 yards), but closed with a birdie at No. 9 to round out his day.

Chandler opened with back-to-back bogeys at No. 10 (par 4, 550 yards) and No. 11 (par 3, 222 yards). He was able to make a few adjustments and post six pars in a row, before a wind gust caused him to misjudge the distance into the green at No. 9, which he bogeyed.

After hitting his first fairway of the day at No. 1, Chandler found the green in two and two putted the par-5 hole to get back to 2-over par.

After a bogey at No. 5, Chandler used some creative shot making from under a tree in the rough at No. 6 (par 4, 428 yards) to stick his approach close and get the shot back with a birdie.

Following a nice up-and-down save at No. 7 (par 4, 520 yards) after missing the elevated green short and rolling back down the hill, Chandler dropped two shots at the long par 3, No. 8 hole (267 yards) as wind gusts blew his tee shot well left of the green.

The sophomore, playing in his first Regional, found the greenside bunker in two at No. 9, but was unable to get his shot close enough for a makeable birdie putt.

On the day, Chandler hit 4-of-14 fairways, 11-of-18 greens in regulation, had 32 total putts and recorded his 4-over par 76.

The Flames will be among the first golfers on the course tomorrow, which could play to their advantage, as the winds increased throughout the day on Monday.

Liberty will once again be sent off the No. 10 tee, along with golfers from tournament host New Mexico and Texas A&M, starting at 8 a.m. (local time).