April 5, 2009
ALPHARETTA, Ga. – UCLA senior Erik Flores celebrated his birthday by firing a tournament record 7-under par 65 and fourth-ranked Clemson holds a slight edge over three Pac-10 Conference schools in the opening round of the United States Collegiate Championship at the Golf Club of Georgia here Sunday.
Flores, who began his round on the 10th hole, fired a 33-32–65 (-7), breaking the four-year old tournament’s single-round record of 66, shared by Southern California’s Jamie Lovemark and former Georgia State Panther Steve Tiley.
“It’s definitely a privilege (to hold the record),” Flores said. “The conditions are easier this year with the greens being softer, but it’s good to have a pretty good round, especially this late in the year. It’s good to be in a position to win after the first round.”
Flores holds a two-shot lead over Southern California’s Matthew Giles, the nation’s No. 1-ranked player, and Clemson’s David May, who are tied for second place after shooting 5-under 67. Three players are tied for fourth place with 3-under 69s.
The team race is equally bunched. Clemson shot a cumulative 5-under par 283 and holds a one-shot lead over 27th-ranked and defending NCAA champion UCLA (284, -4) and a two-stroke advantage over third-ranked Southern California (285, -3). Another Pac-10 team, ninth-ranked Washington, is the only other team under par through 18 holes after shooting a 1-under 287.
Oklahoma State (+1) and Stanford (+1) are tied for fifth place, just six strokes off the pace. Three teams are knotted in seventh place at 3-over – Georgia Tech, Alabama and South Carolina. No. 1-ranked Georgia (+7) is in 10th place.
The 54-hole, three-day tournament continues Monday and Tuesday on the par 72, 7,017-yard layout, located about 25 miles North of Atlanta. The 15-team field includes nine of the nation’s top-10 ranked teams according to Golfweek’s national rankings.
Flores’ round, which tied a career low, included an eagle on the Par 5 10th hole and six birdies. Flores was 8-under par at one point before suffering his only bogey, on the Par 4 8th hole (his 17th hole of the day).
“I don’t want to say it was an easy 65 because it definitely wasn’t,” Flores said. “But, I think I was within 10 feet probably 12 times. It’s playing a lot softer, and when that happens, you’ve got to take advantage of it as much as you can.”
The conditions are expected to take a turn for the worse on Monday. Temperatures in the mid-40s and wind gusts near 20 mph are in the forecast. Only 15 of the 78 participants shot under-par on Sunday and that number could dwindle.
“The game plan is probably going to be a little different if the weather gets bad,” said Flores, who turned 22 on Sunday. “But hitting fairways here is what it is all about.”
One highlight of Sunday’s round came from Texas A&M’s Clay Hodge, who had a hole-in-one on the 13th hole, a 183-yard par 3.
Georgia Tech, in a three-way tie for seventh place, has never previously won the USCC, but the Yellow Jackets have been remarkably consistent by finishing in fourth place, or tied for fourth place, in all three prior championships.
Tech was led Sunday by sophomore John Tyler Griffin, who used a birdie on the 17th hole to finish with a team-low even par 72. Three Yellow Jackets – All-American Cameron Tringale, Chesson Hadley and David Dragoo – all shot 1-over 73, and freshman Minghao Wang scored a 4-over 76.
Play begins at 11 a.m. Monday at the Golf Club of Georgia.
TEAM SCORES RD1(4) Clemson 283 (-5)(27) UCLA 284 (-4)(3) Southern California 285 (-3)(9) Washington 287 (-1)(2) Oklahoma State 289 (+1)(6) Stanford 289 (+1)(8) Georgia Tech 291 (+3)(11) South Carolina 291 (+3)(13) Alabama 291 (+3)(1) Georgia 295 (+7)(24) Texas A&M 296 (+8)(5) Florida 296 (+8) (18) Florida State 302 (+14)(7) Indiana 303 (+15) (29) East Tennessee State 306 (+18)( ) Golfweek National Ranking
TOP INDIVIDUALS RD1 Erik Flores, UCLA 65 (-7) David May, Clemson 67 (-5) Matthew Giles, Southern California 67 (-5) Kyle Stanley, Clemson 69 (-3) Tze Huang Choo, Washington 69 (-3) Nick Taylor, Washington 69 (-3) Brooks Koepka, Florida State 70 (-2) Billy Horschel, Florida 70 (-2) Bud Cauley, Alabama 70 (-2) Steve Ziegler, Stanford 70 (-2)