Sep 6, 2013
SUGAR GROVE, Ill. - Picking up where it left off a year ago, the University of Houston Men's Golf team held the first-day lead with a score of 9-under-par 279 on Friday after the first round at the Northern Intercollegiate.
The Cougars - who won three tournaments in 2012-13, including the Conference USA team and individual championships - stood in a tie with Liberty for the team lead on the 7,326-yard, par-72 course at Rich Harvest Farms.
"We got off to a really good start. Blair made a bunch of birdies early and finished strong. Roman played solid, and Wes and Curtis complemented those two rounds. It was a solid performance top to bottom," said Director of Golf Jonathan Dismuke, who begins his fifth season with the Cougars in 2012-13. "We did a lot of little things well."
Notorious at times in 2012-13 for sluggish starts, the Cougars were hot from the beginning of Friday's round, totaling a combined five birdies through the first three holes.
"You always feel better about things when you get off to a good start and don't put yourself behind the 8-ball. That's something we focused on with the guys," Dismuke said. "They did a great job today."
Houston posted four players among the first day's top-20 leaders. Hamilton led the Cougars and was tied atop the leaderboard after shooting a career-low 67 on Friday morning. Starting his day on No. 10, the Burlington, Ontario, Canada, native birdied three of his first four holes and closed out his day with birdies on two of his final three holes to tie with Kentucky's David Snyder for the first-day lead.
Hamilton carried over the momentum from his summer schedule into Friday's opening round. Advancing to the Round of 32 at the U.S. Amateur Championship in mid-August, he became the first Cougar since 1999 to win in match play at that prestigious event and became the first Cougar since 2007 to even compete in that event.
"Blair had a great summer schedule. He competed at a lot of great courses against some top competition," Dismuke said. "When you are physically gifted like Blair and you want to do well like he does, you are going to be better playing a schedule like that. Without questions, his play all summer long helped prepare him for Friday."
Hamilton bested his previous low of 70, set three times and most recently on Feb. 5 during the final round at the Rice Intercollegiate.
Sophomore and 2013 Conference USA individual champion Roman Robledo posted a 68 in his first round of the season to tie with two others for third. The Harlingen, Texas, native ended with five birdies and only one bogey in a sparkling round.
Seniors Wesley McClain and Curtis Reed each finished with even-par 72 to tie for 19th. After shooting 1-over-par on his first nine holes of the day, the Diboll, Texas, native opened his back nine with birdies on two of his first four holes and drained pars on the last five holes.
Following Liberty, Kentucky stood in third at 286 with Virginia (289), UCF (290), Ball State (293), Louisville (298), St. Mary's (Calif.) (300), UT Arlington (301) and North Texas (304) rounding out the top-10 team leaders.
The Northern Intercollegiate second round tees off at 8 a.m., Saturday. All Cougars will tee off No 1 on Saturday starting with Scobie (8 a.m.) and continuing with Martino (9:30 a.m.); Reed (9:39 a.m.); McClain (9:48 a.m.); Robledo (9:57 a.m.) and Hamilton (10:06 a..m.)
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Following this weekend's tournament, the Cougars will compete as the American Athletic Conference representative at the GolfWeek Conference Challenge on Sept. 15-17. That prestigious event will be held at Spirit Hollow Golf Course in Burlington, Iowa.
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