PINEHURST, N.C. (April 19, 2015) – The ETSU men’s golf team got off to a strong start at the Southern Conference Championship as the 40th-ranked Buccaneers hold the team lead, while Mateusz Gradecki (Oborniki Śląskie, Poland) and Adrian Meronk (Wroclaw, Poland) are in the top-five following first round play on Sunday at Pinehurst.
The Bucs, who are in search of their 23rd conference championship (18th SoCon), were the only team to finish below par as the Blue and Gold fired a 2-under-par 286 en route to holding a three-shot lead heading into Monday’s second round. ETSU’s score was the lowest first-round total in the conference championship since Furman carded a 280 in 2010. Wofford sits in second-place at 1-over-par 289 and Chattanooga is five shots back in third at 3-over-par 291.
“I thought our guys did a good job today and we are pleased to be leading after round one,” said head coach Fred Warren, whose team bounced back to finish the day strong. “We got off to a good start early, struggled a bit during the middle of the round, but four of our guys birdied the second-to-last hole, so that pulled us back into the lead. Mateusz played solid all day and I am proud of his performance. Adrian gave us another good round and Gudmundur finished strong for us. We battled with rainy conditions today and they are calling for storms tomorrow. We hope we can beat the weather and put up another strong score on Monday.”
Gradecki led ETSU in the opening round as he carded a 4-under 68 and is in fourth overall. The Buccaneer sophomore began the round on a solid note as he registered four of his six birdies in his first nine holes, and after a bogey on the par-4, 439-yard No. 5, Gradecki posted his final birdie on his second-to-last hole to finish the day with his 68.
“I felt comfortable out there today and it feels great to get off to a good start,” said Gradecki, who tied his lowest collegiate round and marked just the second time this season he recorded a score in the 60s. “I was accurate with my driver and putter today, so that gave me a lot of opportunities to get some birdies. I knew the 68 was my lowest score and was trying to go lower, but I am still happy with my play and glad I was able to help the team out.”
Meanwhile, Meronk – the 18th-ranked golfer – is directly behind his teammate in fifth-place at 3-under 69. Despite sitting at 2-under through his first four holes, Meronk quickly moved back to even-par with seven holes left in the round; however, the ETSU junior totaled three birdies down the stretch moving him into the top-five.
“I made some short putts early to get off to a fast start and was good with my irons late to finish with the three birdies,” said Meronk, who was one of the four Buccaneers to card a birdie on the second-to-last hole. “I’m happy for Mateusz for the way he played today and overall the team played well. We look forward to going out tomorrow and hope to build on our lead.”
Individually, Western Carolina’s J.T. Poston – the reigning conference champion – fired a 6-under 66 and holds a one-stroke lead over Wofford’s Brannan Hudson.
Junior Gudmundur Kristjansson (Reykjavik, Iceland) is tied for 18th at 2-over 74 and senior Rhys Pugh (Pontypridd, Wales) is tied for 23rd at 3-over 75. Kristjansson, who is coming off medalist honors earlier in the week at the Greenbrier Collegiate Invitational, was 4-over through his first 11 holes, but recorded his two birdies in the final seven holes to end the round on a positive note. Pugh was 2-under through his first eight holes on Sunday, but played the last 10 holes at 5-over to finish with the 75. Both Kristjansson and Pugh were the other two ETSU golfers to walk away with a birdie on the par-5, 535-yard No. 8.
The Bucs will be grouped with Wofford and Chattanooga in Monday’s second round, which begins at 8 a.m. from Pinehurst No. 9. Senior Tom Heggarty (Cheshire, England) will be the first Buccaneer on the course as he tees off at 8:50 a.m.
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