Eric Yiu leads Emory to early advantage at Golfweek D-III Invite

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Eric Yiu leads Emory to early advantage at Golfweek D-III Invite

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Eric Yiu leads Emory to early advantage at Golfweek D-III Invite

Live scoring: Men | Women

MIRAMAR BEACH, Fla. – Last week, Emory men’s golf assistant Keenan Hickton pulled sophomore Eric Yiu aside and shared with him some thoughts.

Hickton, a former Eagles player who graduated last spring, has walked with Yiu for much of the fall and felt that the Windermere Prep product from Orlando, Fla., by way of China was close to breaking out.

“I told him I thought he was on the cusp of playing some really good golf,” Hickton said of Yiu. “Being around college golf, playing with him last year and seeing him play a lot this year, I’ve never seen someone who just wears out the fairway, wears out the green like he does. But he just hadn’t gotten over the hump. He’s never just had it all go right in one day.”

That changed Sunday at the Golfweek Division III Fall Invitational at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort’s Raven Course. Yiu fired a school-record-tying, 5-under 66 to grab the first-round lead and help the top-ranked Eagles to a 12-under 272 (an outright school record) and 10-shot lead over Southwestern.

“We all think he’s just so special and it’s good to finally see something like this happen because we all knew it was coming,” Hickton said.

Hickton finished second last year at Sandestin, so he knew the Raven Course well. Yiu, who missed this event last season, said having Hickton by his side all day – helping with decision-making, green-reading and par-3 yardages – was a big reason for his breakout day, which included five birdies on the back nine (his first nine) along with an impressive even-par 35 on the more difficult front nine.

Emory head coach John Sjoberg said Hickton’s biggest impact on Yiu has been positive reinforcement.

“Keenan has been really good for Eric,” said Emory head coach John Sjoberg. “Eric is such a perfectionist that he hits really good shots that he doesn’t like. By his standards, he’s never played a great round of golf in his life.”

Added Hickton: “We preach to him that you’re not going to be perfect for five hours on the golf course. … But he played a pretty perfect round of golf today.”

Yiu opened his first round with a 5-foot make on the par-4 10th and then added a 20-footer from the fringe at the par-5 11th. After birdies at Nos. 14 and 15, he poured in a 20-footer on the par-4 18th. He birdied the par-4 second from 5 feet and then capped his round with an impressive short, downhill par save on the tough par-4 ninth.

“It seemed like every putt we looked at was perfect, center of the cup,” Yiu said.

Yiu is joined in the top 10 by teammates Logan Ryan (T-2, 4 under), Connor Yakubov (T-7, 2 under) and Matt Organisak (T-10, 1 under). The Eagles threw out a 1-over 72 from Sam Galloway. Emory played its first three holes in 7 under and its last three in 3 under.

“We got off to a fast start,” Sjoberg said. “Obviously, you have to take advantage of 10 and 11, and we did. And we carried that momentum through the turn and finished strong.”

Carnegie Mellon sits third at 1 over while Huntingdon and North Carolina Wesleyan are tied for fourth at 5 over.

On the women’s side, things are much closer. Berry leads at 23 over, but Methodist lurks at 25 over, followed by Illinois Wesleyan (26 over), Rhodes (29 over), Birmingham-Southern (30 over), Huntingdon (31 over) and Carnegie Mellon (31 over).

Mary Hardin-Baylor’s Olivia Robinson leads individually after an even-par 72 on Sandestin’s Baytowne Course. Berry’s Karley Hammond and Methodist’s Jillian Drinkard are tied for second at 1 over.

Defending women’s team champion Washington-St. Louis is T-8.

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