No. 7 seed Liberty overcame a tough start at the NCAA Raleigh Regional on Monday to finish the first day of the event tied for seventh place.
The Flames' starting five played the first four holes of the Lonnie Pool Golf Course (par 71, 7,273 yards) at a combined 9-over par. However, as the temperatures around the NC State home golf course started to heat up en route to the mid-90s by early afternoon, so did Liberty who finished the day with a 4-under par 280.
Liberty shares seventh place with No. 8 seed Missouri and No. 11 seed Middle Tennessee State. The three teams find themselves just four shots off a top-five position in the field, which will be a coveted spot at the end of play on Wednesday afternoon.
The top five teams at each of the six NCAA Regional sites will advance to the 2018 NCAA Men's Golf National Championship at Karsten Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla., May 25-30. The Flames are looking to advance to the national championship for the second time in program history and the first since 2012.
The fifth-place position is currently shared by No. 4 seed Arizona State and No. 9 seed Santa Clara, who finished the first day of regional play with an 8-under par 276.
No. 3 seed Texas wasn't fazed by the high temperatures, as the Longhorns lead the 14-team field following a 13-under par 271.
No. 1 seed Georgia Tech is three shots off the overall lead, after the Yellow Jackets carded a 10-under par 274.
Tournament host and No. 6 seed NC State is in third place and used its home course knowledge to fire a 9-under par 275.
More than half of the 64-man field finished the day in red figures, with Texas' Doug Ghim and Iona College's Justin Burkhamer leading the way following a 7-under par 64.
NC State's Stephen Franken, Arizona State's Chun An Yu and Santa Clara's Jack Avrit are one shot back after each recording a 6-under par 65.
Liberty's leading golfer following 18 holes of play is Gabe Lench, who is tied for 15th place after a 2-under par 69. The junior was 2-over after three holes of play, but offset a double bogey on the par-4, No. 16 hole (405 yards) with six birdies during his last 14 holes of play.
Lench got the birdie string started by rolling in a 35-foot uphill putt on the par-4, No. 5 hole (462 yards). He got back to level par after getting up and down from a greenside bunker two holes later at the par-5, No. 7 hole (589 yards).
The junior used his length to be around the green in two on both of the par-5 holes on the back nine (No. 11/631 yard and No. 15/549 yard) to record additional birdies. He closed his day with his sixth and final birdie, snaking in a 12-foot downhill putt on No. 18 (par 4, 482 yards).
Alexandre Fuchs and Mickey DeMorat are one shot behind Lench and tied for 23rd place following a 1-under par 70.
Fuchs, a freshman playing in his first NCAA Regional event, bogeyed his first four holes on Monday, but posted five birdies over an eight-hole stretch to get into red figures.
DeMorat was 2-under par after 11 holes of play, but back-to-back bogeys at No. 13 (par 4, 448 yards) and No. 14 (par 3, 194 yards) dropped him back to even. The senior posted a birdie on the par-4, No. 16 hole (405 yards), allowing him to complete the day under par.
Ervin Chang finished the day tied for 34th place with an even-par 71. The sophomore, who also made his NCAA Regional debut today, lipped out for double eagle on the par-5, No. 7 hole (589 yards). He used the tap-in eagle to help record his 19th round at par or better this year.
Liberty's final golfer in the field is Isaiah Logue, who is tied for 56th place with 3-over par 74. The senior carded five birdies on the day, including the par-3, No. 17 (135 yards) and No. 18.
The Flames will be sent off the No. 1 tee at the same time tomorrow, starting at 8:25 a.m. for the second round of the NCAA Regional. Liberty will be paired with Missouri and Middle Tennessee State, the two teams it shares seventh place with currently.