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REUNION, Fla. – John Hackney had a good feeling about Reunion Resort before his Barton team ever set foot on the first tee Sunday. After being picked as the No. 1 team in the Conference Carolinas Spring Poll, the Bulldogs took away good vibes from the Legacy Course during their practice round on Saturday. Then they set about distancing themselves from the field.
Barton shot a 9-under 279 Sunday in the first round of the Golfweek Division II Spring Invitational and lead Lander by six shots. Darkness prevented the completion of the first round, but only three teams in the 17-team field (CSU-Monterey Bay, Abilene Christian and Eckerd) have holes to complete.
Hackney maintains that the 6,889-yard Arnold Palmer-designed layout sets up well for his players because none are particularly long hitters.
“We’re pretty accurate,” Hackney said. “We put the ball in the fairway a lot today and had a lot of good looks at greens.”
Barton combined for 20 birdies and two eagles as a team in Round 1, and freshman Dermot McElhennon contributed more than his share. McElhennon holds the first lead of his young career after shooting a 6-under 66. He played the No. 5 spot for Barton in Round 1 simply because he doesn’t require much time to warm up and Hackney decided to send him off the tee first. It worked well.
By No. 15, McElhennon, who hails from New Bern, N.C., had played his way to 8 under. He birdied No. 7, then followed it with an eagle at the par-5 ninth after sticking a 5-wood to 30 feet and holing the putt. Birdies at Nos. 10, 11, 12, 14 and 15 followed, and McElhennon lipped out a 10-footer at 13.
At No. 16, McElhennon tried to force it to 9 under, and ended up three-putting for bogey. He also bogeyed 18 coming in.
This may just be the tip of the iceberg for McElhennon, who knows there are plenty more birdies to be had at Reunion.
“It’s sweet, can’t beat the greens,” he said.
Play will resume at 7 a.m. for teams not able to finish Sunday.