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GOLF | Strong Opening Round Propels Gaels To Tourney Lead

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- There is an old saying that it isn't how you start, it's how you finish.

But, it would be hard to believe Saint Mary's golf coach Scott Hardy minds terribly that his team raced out an an early lead after the first round of the annual Saint Mary's Invitational - the first event of the college golf season.

The Gaels placed three golfers among the top six individuals en route to a team score of 5-under par 279 in overcast, windy conditions to lead second-place San Diego State by eight strokes at Poppy Hills Golf Course.

The runner-up Aztecs recorded a 3-over par 287, while Washington State and Santa Clara are tied for third place at 6-over par 290.  

The field returns to the Robert Trent Jones, Jr.-designed course tomorrow for the tournament's second round beginning at 7:30 a.m. (Pacific)  The final round of the 54-hole event is scheduled for Wednesday morning at 7:30 a.m.

Tomorrow Saint Mary's is paired with golfers from San Diego State and Santa Clara and is scheduled to start off the first hole beginning at 9:10 a.m.

"I thought we played well as a team," said Hardy.  "Everybody contributed.  Our worst score out of seven guys, including individuals, was 75, which is pretty competitive.  That shows our depth, which is a strength of our team right now.  Overall, I was happy with the way we played."

Three different Gaels turned in scores of 2-under par 69 and are tied for third place in the 84-golfer field, including senior Jonathan De Los Reyes and sophomores Roman Aragon and Pavan Sagoo.  Senior San Diego senior Alex Chiarella leads the event after carding a 4-under par 67.

Each of the seven SMC golfers competing in the tournament return from last year's team that advanced to NCAA postseason competition for the third time in the last four seasons.  De Los Reyes and Aragon are coming off summers during which they each qualified to participate in the USGA's United States Amateur Championships.

"I'm not surprised by our scores today," said Hardy.  "I felt like we were ready.  Our guys played well in qualifying and there were a few under par scores.  I think they are comfortable with the golf course, which is important out here.  If you are comfortable and stick to the game plan, shooting low scores is doable."

Whether due to experience or course familiarity, the Gaels played well on the 6,868 yard, par 71 course.  SMC were tournament leaders in par 3 scoring at plus-1, tied for the lead in par 4 scoring at 8-over and finished second in par 5 scoring at an impressive 10-under.  SMC registered a tournament-best 17 birdies.

A native of Mission Viejo, Aragon registered the most consistent round of the day with 16 pars and two birdies.  Sagoo carded just two bogeys and four birdies, while the highlights of De Los Reyes' round was a 27-foot putt for eagle on the par 5 9th hole and a birdie on the final hole.

Maclayne Marr, playing as an individual, shot even par 71 and is tied for seventh overall.  Hunter Rappleye, at 1-over par 72, is tied for 14th and registered the Gaels' fourth-best score.  Connor Blick, also playing as an individual, is 2-over, while Perry Cohen is teid for 44th at 4-over par.

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