March 20, 2009
Robin Wingardh's best round of the spring sparked Tennessee to a three-shot advantage after Friday's first day at the Schenkel E-Z-Go Invitational in Statesboro, Ga.
The Vols fired the only team round in red figures, finishing with a combined 1-under total of 287 to lead second place North Florida by three strokes and third-place Georgia Southern and South Carolina by four.
"Everyone on our team played pretty well," UT head coach Jim Kelson said. "It was a challenge playing in the wind, but we had a good round from top to bottom. I thought we played smart, and Robin had an exceptionally good round."
The sophomore Swede carded a 3-under-par 69 to stand in a four-way tie for first place. Wingardh birdied three par-4s -- Nos. 2, 5 and 14 -- along with the par-5 seventh hole to offset his lone bogey of the afternoon at No. 15.
It's familiar territory for Wingardh, who captured co-medalist honors back in September at the PING/Golfweek Preview -- site of this year's NCAA championship at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio. And the spring season has seen him round his game into form, improving from a 37th-place showing in Arizona early last month to 17th at Sawgrass in Florida to a tie for eighth two weeks ago at the Braveheart Classic in California.
His effort Friday seemed to boost that of his teammates, as all four UT scorers finished among the top 36.
Included was junior James Brannen, who played the back nine Friday in 33 strokes -- best of the day out of 96 golfers -- to complete a 1-over-par 73 and tie for 27th place. The Clarksville native had five bogeys on the front but blistered down the stretch, birdieing 15, 16 and 18. It was Brannen's third start of the season and just the fifth of his career, yet the 73 was Brannen's best collegiate round and best this season by five strokes.
Chris Paisley sits in a tie for eighth at 1-under-par 71. The senior began his day with back-to-back birdies and finished with a birdie at the par-5 18th. In between was another birdie at 14 along with three bogeys as Paisley shoots for his fourth consecutive top-10 finish and sixth of the season.
Darren Renwick scored for the Vols with a 2-over 74. The freshman was 1 under through 12 holes before a string of four bogeys in five holes finally came to a halt with his finishing birdie at 18.
David Holmes also played well, carding a 3-over 75. The Knoxville junior had the team's only birdie at the par-4 17th to offset four bogeys, two on each side.
Joining Wingardh atop the individual leaderboard is Auburn's Glenn Northcutt, LSU's Sang Yi, and Taylor Floyd, a member of the Augusta State team but participating individually in this tournament.
"This course can be challenging at any time, but when the wind picks up it can provide a stern test and it did today," Kelson said. "There isn't any question it was a pretty challenging course at certain points."
Those challenges should remain with winds Saturday in the 10-15 mph range at Forest Heights Country Club. Temperatures are expected to reach the low 70s under sunny skies.
The Vols, ranked 16th in the latest Golf World/Nike Golf Division I Coaches' Poll, begin Round 2 on the 10th tee at 10:21 a.m. Eastern time. Live results are available on UTsports.com.
1. TENNESSEE, 287 (-1)
2. North Florida, 290
3. Georgia Southern, 291
3. South Carolina, 291
5. Florida, 292
6. Oklahoma, 293
7. Auburn, 294
8. Georgia State, 295
8. Mississippi, 295
8. North Carolina State, 295
11. Vanderbilt, 296
11. LSU, 296
11. Virginia, 296
14. Kentucky, 297
15. Augusta State, 298
16. North Carolina, 302
16. Iowa, 302
18. Notre Dame, 311
t-1. Robin Wingardh, 69 (-3)
t-8. Chris Paisley, 71 (-1)
t-27. James Brannen, 73 (+1)
t-36. Darren Renwick, 74 (+2)
t-45. David Holmes, 75 (+3)