ATHENS, Ga. --- The East Carolina men's golf team is in third place after the opening round of the NCAA Athens Regional at the University of Georgia Golf Course on Thursday. The Pirates shot 8-under 276 on the par-71, 7,253-yard links.
Today's 276 marks the first under-par round that ECU has posted in its seven rounds of play in NCAA competition. Its previous best was a 1-over 289 in the first round of the 1991 NCAA East Regional.
The top five teams in the regional advance to the national finals in Pacific Palisades, Calif., beginning May 30. Fourth-ranked Alabama leads the field with a 15-under 269, while No. 10 North Florida is second at 13-under 271. Host institution and No. 24 Georgia is in fourth-place at 4-under 280, followed by Houston and UNC Wilmington tied for fifth-place at 2-under 282.
Senior Harold Varner and sophomore Ryan Eibner lead the way for ECU, as each player carded a 4-under 67 and are a part of a five-way tie for fifth-place. Varner was 1-under after nine holes, as ECU began play on the back nine, but was even through 13 holes. He then birdied four of the final five holes to post his lowest round of the season. Eibner recorded five birdies to match his lowest round of the year.
ECU senior David Watkins pared the final 10 holes to finish tied for 17th at 1-under 70, while classmate Adam Stephenson bogeyed his final hole to complete the round at 1-over 72 tied for 37th. Junior Zach Edmondson, making his first NCAA Regional appearance, carded a 5-over 76.
North Florida's Kevin Aylwin fired a 6-under 65 to lead the field. Aylwin recorded five birdies and one eagle to earn a one-stroke lead over a quartet of players.
The Pirates will play alongside Alabama and North Florida on Friday in round two. The trio will go off in 10-minute increments starting at 9:10 a.m. from hole No. 1. Live scoring and pairings can be found at golfstat.com.