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Race to the top

UAB, GSU lead after 1st round

Race to the top

Race to the top

Georgia Southern's Scott Wolfes chips...

    Sunshine and warm weather came out to play on Friday.
    So did the Georgia Southern Golf team.
    Hosting the 35th annual Schenkel Invitational at Forest Heights Country Club, the Eagles were clicking throughout the first round of the three-day tournament. At the end of the day, GSU’s team score of 2-under par placed them second overall. The Eagles were one of just two teams to break par on the day amongst the 15-team field.
    UAB leads the field after the first day with a score of 3-under.
    Virginia, Texas, College of Charleston and Mississippi are all tied for third place at 2-over after the first 18 holes of play.
    Georgia Southern’s in-state and future Sun Belt rival Georgia State didn’t fare as well, turning in a 13-over performance to sit in 14th place.
    “Today was important for us,” Georgia Southern coach Larry Mays said. “The first round of tournaments has been sort of our Achilles’ heel this season. Now we can come out in the second round and not have to worry about turning things around. We can just try to maintain and repeat what we were able to do today.”
    During last week’s media day for the tournament, Mays preached the need for consistency. The Eagles have had plenty of great individual performances throughout the season, but it will take a weekend full of all members of the team producing in order to claim their first-ever title at the Schenkel.
    The message seems to have been received.
    Senior Will Evans led the Eagles with a 3-under round of 69 and was one of just seven players in the field to break 70 on the day.
    Scott Wolfes birdied three of his last six holes to come in at a 1-under 71 and Hayden Anderson turned in an even-par 72.
    Both Charlie Martin and Matt Mierzejewski carded 74s.
    “You can’t ask for much more than that,” Mays said. “Any time you can have everyone at 74 or under, you’ll take it.
    “We had a few bogeys get away from us, but everyone battled hard and kept up good rounds. That really helps the team as a whole. It’s easier to keep battling when you know that one of your teammates is behind you, ready to pick up a shot that gets dropped.”
    That spirit was certainly on display in Friday’s round.
    As a whole, the Eagles played the front nine at 1-over par. Facing the objectively trickier back nine, GSU’s shot-making improved and three of the five Eagles came in under-par.
    Scoring conditions look to present themselves again in today’s second round. More warm temperatures and sunshine are forecast, along with less wind than Friday.
    “We took advantage of a few holes today,” Mays said. “Hopefully we can do the same in the second round. If we can do that and clean up a few mistakes, we can put up a really good number.”
    As the top two teams on the leaderboard, Georgia Southern and UAB, who were paired alongside N.C. State on Friday, will again send their golfers head-to-head today. The teams will be joined by Virginia (T3, +2).
    The first groups of the day — currently trailing the field — will tee off at 9 a.m.
    Mierzejewski will begin the Eagles’ day with a 10:30 a.m. tee time.

    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.

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