Preston Dembowiak comes up the closing 18th hole to close off his two-under par 70 during the first round of the Big South Men's Golf Championship on Monday.
No. 1 seed Liberty opened the 2011 Big South Men's Golf Championship with a two-over par 290, helping the Flames take a four-stroke lead following the first round of action on Monday. Liberty's 290 was the Flames' fourth-best 18-hole total in program history at the league championship event. The Flames, currently ranked No. 31 in the country, came into the event with a 304.42 stroke average in 19 previous years at the Big South Championship. Liberty will enter the middle day of the 54-hole tournament four strokes ahead of Winthrop, who is in second place following a six-over par 294, and five shots clear of Coastal Carolina, who is in third place with a seven-over par 295. Coastal Carolina, who has won the last seven titles and 12 out of the last 14 conference championships, finds itself in an unfamiliar spot. This is the first time since 2006 that the Chanticleers are not the first round leader, and Liberty's 18-hole lead snaps the Chanticleers' string of 14 consecutive rounds led in the Big South Men's Golf Championship. Only five golfers found red figures on the par-72, 7,113-yard The Patriot Golf Club, with two of the five being Liberty golfers. Radford's Weston Eklund leads the 40-man field with a three-under par 69. Scores were lower at times during the day, but winds picked up during the final two hours of play, elevating most of the team scores during the closing holes on the back nine. Preston Dembowiak, the lone senior in Liberty's starting five, currently leads the Flames and is tied for second place with a two-under par 70. This marked the best round of the senior's Big South Championship career, bettering his second round 73 in 2009, and his score was lower than his 75.67 career championship stroke average. Dembowiak offset five birdies with three bogeys to post his eighth sub-par round of the season. The Summerfield, N.C., native finished the day by hitting 9-of-14 fairways, 13-of-18 greens in regulation and with 30 total putts. Strong iron play by Dembowiak led to back-to-back birdies on No. 4 and No. 5, but he missed his first green of the day on the par-3, No. 7 hole, costing him a shot after a bogey. The all-conference performer managed to get back to two-under par twice more, the last after a lengthy birdie putt on the par-4, No. 16 hole from the edge of the green. He tried to card his sixth sub-70 round of the season with two long shots on the par-5 closing No. 18, but his chip up to the green after flying over it in two left him too far away from the hole for a sixth birdie. Max McKay, who joined Dembowiak on the all-conference team, is tied for fourth place following a one-under round of 71. The sophomore was at one-over par after a bogey on the par-5, No. 13 hole, but birdies on the par-4 No. 14 and 16 holes helped last year's Big South Freshman of the Year finish in red figures. Robert Karlsson, who was named Big South Golfer of the Year for the second straight season yesterday, is tied for ninth place after a one-over par 73. The junior, who is currently ranked No. 37 in the country, was at two-under par through 11 holes, but a six-hole stretch with four bogeys and one birdie left him with an opening-round 73 for the second year in a row at the Big South Golf Championship. Andrew Colvin and Chase Marinell follow behind as Liberty's No. 4 and 5 golfers after rounds of 76 and 77. Colvin was two-under par after five holes, but the first of two double bogeys on the day dropped him back to level par. On the back nine, the UCF transfer posted two bogeys, a birdie and his second double bogey on No. 16 to fire a four-over par 76, which has him tied for 22nd place. Marinell, who was named Freshman of the Year yesterday, got his Big South Championship career off to a rough start with double bogeys on No. 1 and No. 3. The rookie make the turn at five-over par, but strung together nine straight pars on the back nine to finish tied for 24th place with a five-par 77. No. 1 seed Liberty will tee it up once again with No. 2 seed Coastal Carolina and No. 6 seed Winthrop tomorrow at the Davis Love, III designed golf course. The No. 5 golfers will hit the No. 1 tee at 9:40 a.m., with the lead golfers set to tee off 40 minutes later at 10:20 a.m. Once again, live scoring for the event will be provided by the Big South Conference through Golfstat.com, while the Liberty Flames Twitter page will provide hole-by-hole coverage for one of its starting five golfers.