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Liberty Widens Lead at Big South Championship

April 19, 2011  Ninety Six, S.C.  RSS
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Preston Dembowiak tied his career best with a six-under par 66 to take a four-stroke lead into the final round of the 2011 Big South Men's Golf Championship.

Preston Dembowiak tied his career best with a six-under par 66 to take a four-stroke lead into the final round of the 2011 Big South Men's Golf Championship.

No. 1 seed Liberty extended its lead to 17 strokes thanks to its best round in championship history, as the Flames carded an 11-under par 277 during the second day at the 2011 Big South Men's Golf Championship on Tuesday.

Liberty, who is currently ranked No. 31 in the country, stands atop the eight-team leaderboard with a nine-under par 567 (290-277). Liberty's 11-under par team score on the day bests the Flames' seven-under par 281 during the final round of last year's Big South Men's Golf Championship.

Liberty's 277 was the second-best 18-hole team total in Big South Championship history and the Flames' nine-under par 567 is the best 36-hole score since 2005. This marks the first time that Liberty has entered the final round of the Big South Championship with the overall lead.

Gardner-Webb was the only other team in the field to find red figures on Tuesday, as the Runnin' Bulldogs carded a three-under par 285 to claim second place with a two-day total of eight-over par 584 (299-285). Radford stands in third place with a 13-over par 589 (298-291), followed by fourth place Winthrop with a 20-over par 586 (294-302).

Coastal Carolina, who has won the last seven Big South titles and 12 out of the last 14 conference championships, is 33 strokes off the pace after carding a 17-over par 305 on the day. The Chanticleers are in sixth place overall with a 24-over par 600 (295-305).

Liberty's nine-under par 277 on the day was due to four of its five golfers posting sub-par rounds on the par-72, 7,113-yard The Patriot Golf Club.

Pacing the way was senior Preston Dembowiak, who tied a career-best round with a six-under par 66 to put him four shots clear of the 40-man field with an overall eight-under par 136 (70-66).

The two-time Big South all-conference honoree blitzed the course with a five-under par 31 on the front side that included three birdies and an eagle three on the par-5, 560-yard No. 5 hole.

He added a fourth birdie on the par-5, No. 13 hole before his first blemish with a bogey on the par-3, No. 17 hole. However, he quickly rebounded by reaching the closing hole, a par-5, 554-yard hole, in two and two putted to close out his six-under par round.

One of the two players that Dembowiak is four shots ahead of is his teammate Max McKay, who carded a three-under par 69 and stands in second place with a three-under par 140 (71-69).

Last year's Big South Freshman of the Year grinded out most of the day, as he strung together three birdies to go along with 15 pars. He birdied the par-4, No. 2 hole after sticking a short iron shot within eight feet.

He followed with numerous close shots over the next 10 holes, but could not get a putt to find the bottom of the cup. It wasn't until the sophomore snaked in a 20-footer from the back edge of the par-5, No. 13 hole that he was able to lower his score again.

McKay followed with another birdie-four on the closing 18th hole to tie his career low at the Big South Golf Championship and give him four-straight championship rounds in red figures. On the day, the sophomore finished by hitting 10-of-14 fairways, 14-of-18 greens in regulation and with 32 putts.

Robert Karlsson, the two-time Big South Golfer of the Year, leveled his overall score at even-par 144 (73-71), which has him tied for fifth place. Karlsson finds himself one shot higher than his two-day total at last year's Big South Championship. However, he only trailed the clubhouse leader by four strokes at this stage in 2010, before carding a six-under par 66 to claim last year's medalist honors.

After making the turn at one-under par with an opening-nine 35, the junior strung together back-to-back birdies on the first two par-4s on the back nine. But bogeys on No. 13 and No. 17 dropped Karlsson back to even par for the tournament.

The final golfer to finish under par on the second day of the Big South Championship event was Chase Marinell, who was named Big South Freshman of the Year on Sunday. The rookie was two-over par after a double-bogey on the par-3, 148-yard No. 7 hole, but he quickly rebounded with a birdie on the next hole, a par-5, 527-yard uphill trek.

On the back nine, Marinell added birdies on No. 12 and the closing 18th hole to card a one-under par 71. Overall, the freshman is tied for 11th place with a four-over par 148 (77-71).

Liberty's final competitor in the field is sophomore Andrew Colvin, who is tied for 20th place after carding his second-straight four-over par 76. The UCF transfer made the turn at even par, but struggled as the winds picked up on the back nine with four bogeys to card the 76.

All eight teams will return to The Patriot Golf Club early tomorrow morning to conclude the three-day Big South Men's Golf Championship. The victor will claim the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Regionals. Liberty (567) will be playing alongside Gardner-Webb (584) and Radford (589), starting at 8:50 a.m.

Once again, live scoring for the event will be provided by the Big South Conference through, while the Liberty Flames Twitter page will provide hole-by-hole coverage for one of the Flames' starting five golfers.