Hitting the green

After a successful start, Liberty Golf eyes big end to 2010-2011 season

The golf team and its members’ rankings are rising and awards are being given while they strive for a Big South title and domination at nationals.

Liberty’s golf team is currently ranked No. 33 out more than 250 NCAA Men’s Division I teams in the Golfstat rankings.

“While being ranked in the top 30 in the nation has been gratifying, I am more proud of the guys and how they have grown as individuals both on and off the golf course,” senior Preston Dembowiak said. “The friendships and closeness of this team is extremely rare and something that we have a lot of pride in.”

The Flames had much success this season including eight top three finishes, one of which was tie for first place at the Rees Jones Intercollegiate. The Flames participated in the prestigious Golfweek Conference Challenge and landed the third-place spot. Not only have the Flames succeeded as a team but individuals have shined as well.

Many of the players have been named Big South Men’s Golfer of the Week. The honorees include sophomore Max McKay, Dembowiak, freshman Ian McConnell and junior Robert Karlsson, who was awarded the honor four times this season. A Liberty golfer was given the title of Big South Men’s Golfer of the Week two out of the seven times it has been awarded this season.

Karlsson is ranked No. 24 in the country as of last week. Dembowiak and freshman Chase Marinell have also made it into the rankings.

“To be ranked that high is a great sign that my golf game is going in the right direction, but I don’t think too much about rankings,” Karlsson said. “I know what I want with my golf, and it doesn’t matter to me what the number is in front of my name. As I said, it is a great compliment that I do something right.”

Since joining Liberty’s golf team in 2009, Karlsson is having his best season. He placed in the top 10 in more than 85 percent of this season’s competitions and has a 71.7 stroke average which is the best in the Big South.

Karlsson has faced many highly ranked competitors and defeated them swiftly.

The Flames’ last competition was at the Laredo Country Club in Laredo, Texas. The starters for Liberty included Dembowiak, Karlsson, Marinell, McConnell and McKay.

McKay placed the highest of the Flames players with a four-under par 212 landing him tied for 15th place. He managed a birdie on the par-5, No. 17 hole helping to land him his second straight four-under par score.

Karlsson followed closely behind McKay with a score of 213, which slid him into 18th place. Dembowiak and Marinell tied for 27th place, each with a one-under par score of 215.

The Flames will hit the course again on April 8 and 9 in Wallace, N.C. This competition will be their last competition before tackling the Big South Men’s Gold Championship for the second year in a row.

To prepare for the tournament the players will diligently work on their individual games.

“We will continue to work hard and make sure we stay focused and make sure we are working hard as far as practice goes and not taking it too easy,” Head Coach Jeff Thomas said.

The team members are also very passionate about succeeding at the Championship this season because they were unsuccessful in last season’s attempt.

“We have been preparing for two years now to win the Big South,” Dembowiak said. “We didn’t get the job done last year, but second is not an option for our team. We understand fully that we have never won Big South and each one of the guys are preparing to make this a reality.”

The Big South Championship is not the only thing looming in Liberty’s future.

“While Big South is an important goal for Liberty golf, ultimately our complete focus is on getting to Oklahoma for the national championship,” Dembowiak said. “From day one, our mentality has been to play, compete against and beat the best.”

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