Ian McConnell will be one of three newcomers to Liberty's Big South roster when the Flames tee it up for the first round of the Big South Men's Golf Championship on Monday.
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No. 1 seed Liberty will look to defend its conference championship title when the 2012 Big South Men's Golf Championship begins play, tomorrow morning, at The Patriot Golf Club in Ninety Six, S.C.
Liberty captured its first-ever Big South golf title last year, when the Flames carded an eight-under par 856 (290-277-289) at the same par-72 golf course, April 18-20.
With the victory, the Flames ended a seven-year run where Coastal Carolina had walked away with the conference's title and automatic bid to the NCAA Regionals. The victory earned Liberty a trip to the NCAA Arizona Regional, the program's third NCAA Regional appearance.
Liberty controlled the event from the first day and eventually finished 31 strokes ahead of second-place finisher Gardner-Webb's 23-over par 887 (299-285-303). Liberty's win marked the second largest margin of victory in Big South Men's Golf Championship history.
Liberty, who is ranked No. 33 in the most recent Golfweek team rankings, will be paired during the first round with No. 2 seed Campbell and No. 3 seed Coastal Carolina. The three teams will go off the No. 1 tee at 9:40 a.m. on Monday morning.
Campbell, ranked No. 76 in the latest Golfweek team rankings, is making its return to this championship event for the first time in 17 years.
A founding member of the Big South Conference, Campbell left the league in 1994 after winning its fourth Big South title in its last six years as a conference member. The Fighting Camels were members of the Atlantic Sun Conference for the last 17 years, but returned to their roots this past fall by rejoining the Big South Conference.
Coastal Carolina is ranked one spot higher than Campbell in the latest Golfweek rankings at No. 77. As previously mentioned, Liberty snapped the Chanticleers' stranglehold on the Big South title last year with its sizeable victory. Coastal Carolina (295-305-288) finished last year's event tied for third place with Winthrop (294-302-292), with both programs carding a 24-over par 888.
Tomorrow's final pairs will feature three programs that have combined to win 18 of the league's 27 Big South Men's Golf Championship titles (Coastal Carolina: 13 – 1988, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010; Campbell: 4 – 1989, 1992, 1993, 1994; and Liberty: 1 – 2011). Besides its team title last year, a member of Liberty's squad has walked away as the event's individual medalist the last two years.
Two-time Big South Golfer of the Year Robert Karlsson captured the title in 2010. The senior posted a seven-under par 209 (73-70-66) at the Patriot Golf Club, finishing two strokes ahead of Charleston Southern's Kelvin Day (69-74-68-211).
Last year, Preston Dembowiak captured his first collegiate individual title by carding a seven-under par 209 (70-66-73). Liberty took the top three spots in the 40-man field, with Max McKay taking second with a three-under par 213 (71-69-73) and Karlsson sharing third with a two-under par 214 (73-71-70).
Karlsson will once again look to lead the Flames, as the senior enters the event as the top ranked individual in the field at No. 38 by Golfweek. The only other Top 125 ranked player in the field will be Campbell's Vaita Guillaume, who is ranked at No. 99.
This will be Karlsson's fourth career event at The Patriot Golf Club, where he enters with a 72.67 career stroke average. The figure is bolstered by Karlsson playing four of his last five rounds of golf at the course a combined 11-under par.
Chase Marinell will be Liberty's second most experienced golf at this championship event. After picking up Big South Freshman of the Year honors, Marinell finished tied for 11th place with a seven-over par 223 (77-71-75).
Two-time Big South Golf Coach of the Year Jeff Thomas will have three fresh faces on his championship roster this year. Sophomores Niklas Lindstrom and Ian McConnell will be joined by freshman Mathieu Fenasse, making up Liberty's starting five in the championship title defense.
Golfstat will be providing live scoring throughout the three-day, 54-hole event. The live leaderboard will be updated after each player's three-hole segment on the course.
LibertyFlames.com will be providing additional coverage throughout the championship event through its Twitter feed (@LibertyFlames). Each day, @LibertyFlames will provide exclusive hole-by-hole updates of a different member of Liberty's roster. Big South Men's Golf Championship Field (Golfweek/Golfstat Team Rankings) Campbell (No. 76/78) Charleston Southern (No. 105/97) Coastal Carolina (No. 77/95) Gardner-Webb (No. 127/127) High Point (No. 169/170 Liberty (No. 33/32) Presbyterian College (No. 155/NA) Radford (No. 144/139) Winthrop (No. 140/146)
Top 125 Individual Golfers in the Field (Golfweek Individual Rankings) No. 38 – Robert Karlsson (Liberty) No. 99 – Vaita Guillaume (Campbell)
Course Information: The Patriot Golf Club (Ninety Six, S.C.) Par 72, 7,113 yards
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