BURLINGTON, Iowa – Behind an opening-round even-par 72 from junior Blake Biggs, the FGCU men’s golf team began its 2013-14 schedule with a 10th-place first-round showing at the competitive Golfweek Conference Challenge hosted by the University of Iowa Sunday afternoon.
As a team, the Eagles shot 300 to tie with LSU, and are just 11 shots off the lead held by the University of Houston (289). The top 11 teams in the 15-team field are separated by just 11 shots, and the entire field is separated by only 21 shots with still two rounds remaining on Monday and Tuesday at Spirit Hollow Golf Course.
Defending Atlantic Sun Conference Freshman of the Year Edward Figueroa (Naples, Fla./St. John Neumann HS) shot a 74 and Matt Cote (Palm Harbor, Fla./Palm Harbor University HS) fired a 75 to lead the way for the Eagles with Biggs (Peoria, Ill./Eastern Florida State College/Peoria Notre Dame HS).
Biggs, who finished 20th in the NJCAA National Championship last year while at Eastern Florida State, birdied three straight holes on the front (4, 5, 6) to move his scorecard from +2 after the 3rd hole to -1 heading to the 7th tee. The Illinois native is in a tie for 11th overall heading to Monday’s second round.
Figueroa (T-28) had an adventurous back side as he recorded three bogeys, three pars, two birdies and one double bogey to shoot 39, but made par on all but one hole on the front as he birdied the par-5 2nd to go out in 35. Cote, who entered as FGCU’s No. 1 on the lineup, also had a more difficult time on the back (40) than he did on the front (35), but is still inside the top 40 overall.
Rounding out the FGCU scoring for the day was junior Jack Hernandez (Fort Myers, Fla./Bishop Verot HS) with a 79 and sophomore Jake Sherwin (Fort Myers, Fla./Evangelical Christian HS) with an 81.
“We got off to a bad start as it was our first event of the season and it showed. We played our first nine (the back nine) at +19 as a team, but we played our back nine (the front nine) as +3. We weren’t mentally ready to play this morning and had some tournament rust to kick off,” head coach Brett Jensen commented. “I was proud of the way we battled back, but we made it too hard ourselves. We need to be ready to play from the first tee shot in the future if we want to be able to compete against the best teams in the country.”
Competing against the best teams in the nation is exactly what FGCU is doing this week. The field is one of the most complete in college golf as it boasts 15 teams from 15 different conferences. Twelve teams finished the 2012-13 season ranked in the top 100 in the nation, eight of those were in the top 65, three were in the top 20 and one was in the top 5. The field consists of nine teams that qualified for the NCAA’s regional tournaments last year, and three which advanced to the NCAA Championship.
In addition to FGCU, representing the A-Sun, the complete field includes: Arizona (Pac-12), New Mexico (MWC), Central Arkansas (Southland), Oklahoma (Big 12), Iowa (Big Ten), Texas State (Sun Belt), Houston (American), Jacksonville State (OVC), UT Chattanooga (So-Con), Virginia Tech (ACC), Louisiana Tech (C-USA), LSU (SEC), Ball State (MAC) and Winthrop (Big South).
Biggs’ five birdies were tied for the third most in the field on the opening day. The par-4, 467-yard 14th hole played the most difficult Sunday at +0.67 over par, yielding only four birdies. The par-4, 496-yard 17th was the second-most difficult at +0.60, but only one birdie on the day was recorded on it.
Tuesday’s second round gets underway at 9 a.m., and live scoring is available on Golfstat.com.